Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First Decade in Maps

Once upon a time, a strange place called Walt Disney World opened, and Walt Disney World had everything: rides, shows, rodents, plants, tikis, duck confit and folk singers. But there was one thing that Walt Disney World did not have, and it took her a surprisingly long time to get it: a damn map to get around.

Now, long time blog readers will of course recognize the gentleman to the right, Genius Guy. Besides his smokin' brylanteened hair, he's holding a map of the Magic Kingdom. It's not a map you or I would use today. It's about four feet wide and three feet tall. It is a wall map, the date is sometime in September of 1971, and Genius Guy is likely a contractee of the Buena Vista Construction Company enjoying the Magic Kingdom on a preview day. He's not using a souvenir wall map as a park guide for our amusement, it's because there was actually no general Magic Kingdom guide available and the very first one would not appear for another eight months or so.... in mid 1972.

I have no idea why this happened. Disneyland had had park guides for years at this point. It couldn't have been pretty from a guest service point of view and is the sort of thing you would think Disney would foresee... as a 1972 "Toy Review" article about Walt Disney World memorably describes:
"Mom said, "Don't you think we need a map?" "Of course," Dad replied, "Now that you mention it I see that everyone is looking at a map, where do you suppose they are giving them out?" As he spoke I saw dozens of people in front of us, each bending over a map in their own funny ways. Grandma asked, "I wonder why they didn't give us one when we bought our tickets?" Ten minutes later Mom came back. "They are giving them out nowhere - they sell the 'official' maps there for 50 cents.""
This article was written from the imagined perspective of a child traveling with family to Walt Disney World, but the author was clearly so peeved at the map situation they made sure to write it into their trip report. 50 cents is the equivalent of $2.50 today, by the way, so while that's not prohibitively expensive it is more than one would like to spend for something she should be given for free.

One publication which did have a map of the Magic Kingdom was Walt Disney World News, which featured a two-page spread at the center of early issues:

And it's a pretty good one. Things are clearly labeled although you'll see that those elements in a state of flux - like where If You Had Wings was being built - were pretty vague. That said it's hardly too artistically admirable - effective, yes, but not too pleasant.

In order to really get into the history of early Walt Disney World maps in all their lurid glory, we have to go back to before the place was even open, such as this glorious 1969/1970 "Fun Map" by Paul Hartley:

Because this represents a look at a park very much in a state of becoming, it's worthwhile to point out a few details of this map worth noting in special detail.

One can see for herself that the Indian Village has no inhabitants at all, which is just as the park opened in 1971, with the "population" added later in 1972 and 1973. Also, Marc Davis' "Tree Snag Reef" scene originally featured dangerous floating limbs as depicted in his concept art and on this map. As of September 1971 these show props were in place in the river, but shortly vanished. Whether this happened during the Rivers of America's first big refurbishment in 1973 is unknown, but for over thirty years now visitors on the Riverboats have had to supply their own dangerous waters between the Indian Burial Grounds and the Pirates Cave show scenes. One can hope these will return someday... but this seems unlikely.

There's alternative names, such as The Diamond Horseshoe with its unique Florida facade but painted yellow and gilded, like her Disneyland sister. Or the Liberty Square Tavern, which is a far less interesting name. What intrigues me is the label "Pinocchio's Village", which can accurately describe the entire Fantasyland West corridor and was applied to this area on the blueprints but never in any guest map as far as I know.

Have you noticed how unbelievably accurate this map actually is? Down to minor architectural details such as whether a window has shutters or not? And yet it lets It's A Small World go totally unlabeled?

Of course the general WED Enterprises indecision as to what to do with Tomorowland is reflected in Hartley's drawing here - it's just a jumbled mass of  space age buildings totally lacking in the type of detail seen elsewhere in his effort. Based on the evidence of this and other maps I would guess that Adventureland was the first area to hit the finish line and Tomorrowland was, as always, the last.

More confirmation that the Jungle Cruise queue was meant to go upstairs at some point. Hartley was probably working directly off the elevation blueprints for most of this stuff, which explains the charmingly flat style.

That cluster of three huts just above the Jungle Cruise boathouse represents the Adventureland Ticket Booth, by the way.

Later to become the Gulf Hospitality House, Disneyana Collectibles, Exposition Hall, and the Town Square Theater. But it's designed to be a hotel front, and it is an exceptionally gorgeous one - it's easy to imagine it nestled amidst rolling hills in upstate New York surrounded by a huge lawn.

Once a Hotel idea was nixed before opening day Disney had no idea what to do with that beautiful Redmond facade, so it was basically just a false front with enough room for a lobby and a restaurant. The Walt Disney Story attraction was built onto the back of the existing facade in 1972.

And two old favorites of this blog, the Liberty Square Market and Nantucket Harbour House, which would debut in May 1972 with a different, and inferior, name.

Paul Hartley's illustration is best known in its beautiful revised version which hung in Walt Disney world hotel rooms for the first decade of the resort:

This map circulates in two versions, and this one appears to be a work in progress - note Hartley's penciled in road which accidentally bisects the Walt Disney World STOLport - but offers I think much more spectacular and beautiful colors. The labels have been removed and a number of the finer details evident in his earlier piece not included, but this is one of the finest pieces of art ever created for any Disney property.

And, of course, there's the simple but wonderfully stylized rendering included in the Preview Edition guidebooks sold at the Walt Disney World Preview Center:

This one is beautiful, even if it shows some hesitation as to what the park will actually be - notice the vague Tomorrowland structures, Disneyland-style castle, and somewhat misplaced Small World - but is very memorable and provided the basic style for the 50 cent "official map" (which was far uglier), as well as a 1970's Walt Disney World lunchbox.

Sadly beautiful art was not what was found in the first GAF "Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World" booklets when they appeared in 1972, handed out with guest tickets:

The detailed maps within were actually even worse, and hardly functional. To be fair, this was consistent with the style of the Disneyland maps at the time, such as this example from a 1971 INA "Your Souvenir Guide to Disneyland":

That's functional, yes, but sort of rough. A bit of relief from austere featureless blocks of color, "whimsical" fonts and suspect geography could be found on the centerfold page of the Walt Disney World GAF guides:

Follow the GAF photo trail!

This was nothing but a smaller and less garishly colored version of the "official map", by the way, and it repeated many of that product's mistakes, such as including the Disneyland Tom Sawyer Island, Frontierland train station, and Tomorrowland train station, which is in the right spot but would never get built. Oh, and that boomerang on stilts over the top of the Grand Prix Raceway.

Thankfully, the tradition of beautiful Walt Disney World maps lived on... in Vacationland Magazine!

Very much in the style of the "Preview Edition" map, this one elects to focus on the entire property rather than just the Magic Kingdom. Oh, and I have to feature this one detail from this map, because it's still hilarious.

Shut up and pay the duck, will ya???
Things did improve for Walt Disney World maps pretty quickly. By Christmas 1974 a greatly improved and much more useful for navigation map was circulation, not in the GAF guides but in separate fliers handed out for special events. This one was from a holiday season pamphlet:

This one really does have it all - it's pleasant to look at, combines the top-down view of the 1971 and 1972 maps with some pictorial embellishments, and introduces a clever color coding system that cuts down on clutter. Unlike earlier Magic Kingdom maps, you can actually navigate pretty quickly and easily through the park using this map.

But it wouldn't be for another few years that this version would be streamlined into an even better incarnation. This is it: in my opinion, probably the best Disney theme park map ever devised for clarity, ease of navigation, and simple aesthetic charm:

I doubt that will ever be topped. This map brought Walt Disney World out of her first decade, and in 1982 all of the maps were altered. Magic Kingdom maps in particular began to get cartoonish and distorted again, while EPCOT Center inherited the simple austere beauty of this style of map because, you know, EPCOT Center was supposed to be less fun. But for pure variety, beauty and interest, no era of Florida property maps have ever topped those first few, fleeting years.