Saturday, October 16, 2010

Good News from the Vacation Kingdom

It all started with... Marty Sklar, believe it or not.

No, not the Walt Disney Company, and no, Marty has not regressed through time to usurp Mickey Mouse as Walt Disney's greatest creation. But anybody who knows Sklar and especially vintage Disneyland promotional publications knows the strong hand Sklar had in shaping the public "voice" of Disneyland and, later, Walt Disney himself. As relayed in issue 30 of the late, great E-Ticket Magazine, Sklar's very first job for Disney was in creating the "Disneyland News" paper souvenir sold on Main Street, USA for the first few years of the operation of the park. As Sklar says in his interview,

"The original summer, we sold 75,000 copies of the Disneyland News at ten cents. That was what Walt wanted. He wanted people to have it, and to get the world out about Disneyland, so ten cents was the price. [...] The newspaper was initially used and distributed to motel and hotel operators in the Southern California area, and then we decided we needed something a little slicker than that. That's how the Disneyland Holiday magazine came about, and we broadened that out and distributed it to Arizona... to anyplace that was within a day's drive of Disneyland. We started the Disneyland Holiday magazine, and then when Holiday Magazine threatened to sue us, we changed the name to Vacationland Magazine."

Our article today does not focus on Disneyland publicity, but in this story we can see the seeds of the Walt Disney World publicity machine coming into being. Walt Disney World did indeed open with editions of Walt Disney World Vacationland magazine, and it was distributed throughout the southeast -- I have one stamped "ST. PETERSBURG KOA" and each issue featured advertisements from local area attractions such as Busch Gardens and a Disney-penned article about places and things to see in the Florida area, such as Tampa Bay's Gasparilla festivities or Old Key West. The back page of every issue was a full page ad for Cypress Gardens, an attraction Disney would help put out of business 35 years later. So Walt Disney World Vacationland was directly descended from Disneyland News, but perhaps surprisingly, Disney would also print a promotional newspaper - not for external circulation, but internal - and this time, it would stick around for some twenty years.

Walt Disney World News, as it was initially called, was a basic but richly detailed four or eight page "periodical" published once a month, detailing what to do and what to see around Walt Disney World. It was distributed to hotel guests in their check-in folder and also to Magic Kingdom visitors at City Hall and the Gulf Hospitality House, and may have in fact been the first ever Magic Kingdom guide map, as the familiar GAF guides did not begin publication until 1972. The center of Walt Disney World News issues featured a luxurious two-page spread on the Magic Kingdom, her attractions and facilities, and a very large map.

In a way this was a smart idea because one cannot go anywhere near a Walt Disney World News without absorbing an enriching wealth of detail, and being forced to leaf through a newspaper to find your way around a theme parks means you're going to be thumbing past pictures and text about recreation, golf, the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Village, and in those early days Disney was especially concerned about getting the world out about all the other great things in Walt Disney World beside the Magic Kingdom. One of the great treasures of these publications are the faux ads, comic strips and assorted silliness they featured on a regular basis for the first ten years, either as "ads" or just strange asides to the reader.

So let's turn back the pages of history and flip through some of Walt Disney World News' highlights. And of course no look at the first ten years of the publication would be complete without an opening look at the headline itself.

This classy, original logo was the very first (you can see this comes from Vol. 1 No. 1 in the lower left there) and persisted until at least late 1975. Long before color invaded the newspaper in the mid 80's, Walt Disney World News was printed in a restrained dual-color system, black and white text and grey scale photos with a bold splash of colored headlines, the color changing each month. February 1972 was light blue, for example, and July 1972, shocking florescent green. It was tasteful, restrained, attention getting and pleasing.

This strange interim version lasted only one year - 1976 - but the new name, "World News", would be resuscitated for use in the mid and late 80's.

This logo closed out the first decade, from 1977 to 1981.

...before becoming this, for the resort's "year-long, smile-wide" (ugh) promotion. The Walt Disney World Tencennial, by the way, is probably Disney's best ever Disney World promotion, because it lasted an actual 12 months and ended with the opening of EPCOT Center.

Early issues of Walt Disney World News featured some strange oddities, including these memorable ads for obscure facets of the Vacation Kingdom:

This was back when the Pro Shop was stranded way out all by herself with the Palm Lounge and Magnolia Room in the Golf Clubhouse, years before it was expanded into a hotel, and so may have needed all the advertising she could get! And don't forget to buy your daily Fruit Basket at the Polynesian Village. Mahalo!

...and an opening day television listing and advertisement brings the 1971 WDW News home. I love that that Wonderful World of Disney gets her own section of the television listing. The idea of watching that splashy, bizarre 70's intro to Wonderful World of Disney in the comfort of your brand new Polynesian Village room, Cinderella Castle glittering across the Seven Seas Lagoon, is my idea of paradise. Maybe in a former life.

These glorious and exciting advertisements come to us from a June 1975 Walt Disney World News. The color that month was a pleasant pine green, as can be seen. I can't think of a single better sell for the Hoop-Dee-Doo than we have here. In fact, it makes me want to go see it right now.

It's 1976 and things are aqua blue as the cool guy with the sunglasses attacks us because we haven't yet been to the Contemporary Racket Club! I don't know who those "Pros" are we see above us in the Golf Resort ad, but I do love the tag line "And challenging golf. For you and the pros. At the Golf Resort." Since we learn in this issue that the Trophy Room now features fondue there's a double incentive to go.

This is the byline for an "article" about the Palm, Magnolia, and Lake Buena Vista golf courses, and it simply cracks me up. Who is "Murph" and how do we known we can we trust his advice?? Certainly his name conjures up images of some old guy in a floppy white bucket hat clenching a pipe between his teeth as he sinks that perfect Birdie on hole 12, but again, why just that enigmatic name... Murph? Not Murphy. Just... Murph. Whoever he was, Murph breathlessly advises: (you should read this aloud with great importance)
"But the Magnolia's most awesome 'monster' is number 17, probably the toughest hole of all of the Walt Disney World courses. This par four beauty has frustrated scores of pros and ameaturs alike. The tee shot, past water on the left and a virtual jungle on the right, must be a long straight ball."
Murph: Walt Disney World's greatest forgotten character.

Below is the byline for "Talk from the Top", a monthly article detailing who will be performing at the Top of the World supper club and when. This makes for strange reading for those of us 35 years later who are not primed to recognize names like Marilyn McCoo or Buddy Greco. This feature had been running in WDW News since the very start, but for some reason in 1976, and only in 1976, is it a "column" complete with a byline. It's anybody's guess if Barbara Stuart really existed!

April 1978 brings the handsome 70's-looking-guy at the Racquet Club, the soon-to-be-ubiquitous "Like To Extend Your Vacation" ad, and a very nice look at the "Sun Banks" logo, now Sun Trust. Sun Banks' building across from the Walt Disney World Village was brand new back then and today survives as a rare unchanged pocket of 1970's Disney goodness.

I've always found this drawing of Jose to be fascinating, perhaps because he doesn't seem to actually be speaking into the phone. This ad is reprinted in French and Spanish directly below the English text I've scanned here, by the way. In 1982, Disney put the French text above the Spanish.

And the 1982 WDW Information Channel listing brings home our brief tour of the first ten years of Walt Disney World News. Of course it's only the smallest taste, not representative of the wealth of detail, information and evocative writing these wonderful time capsules possess. Still, I hope it whets your appetite for more or just provides a look into the distant past of Walt Disney World, an echo of an era that seems more remote with each passing day.


DizWiz said...

These are great! I only have two copies of the "News," one from 1978 and one from 1979, so it's nice to see what they look liked over the years.

philphoggs said...

The bygone days of graphic arts

tamajinn said...

I enjoyed those very much (your wonderful commentary is the cherry on top) and would love to see more!

Deb @ Focused on the Magic said...

Great blog! Enjoyed your comments and the graphics are wonderful:)