The Importance of: Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Contemporary Resort Offering 3 New Year's Eve Events for 2017, Including PIXAR & Princess and the Frog Parties
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It’s easy to imagine the Contemporary Resort as a fixture of the Bay Lake area and not really contemplate the history, trials and tribulations the hotel underwent to get to the incredible place it is today.

Originally, the Contemporary was to be named “The Tempo Bay Resort”, which was scrapped near opening day to just the Contemporary Resort, Walt stated he liked simple names and titles for things that accurately described what things are. Arranging and furnishing rooms out of the hotel structure, and then using a crane to lift the unit into place was unprecedented; the hotel was being fitted with rooms at a pace of up to 15 units per day. The hotel encountered various setbacks, from workers sleeping on the job and creating phantom employees to cash additional checks to stealing, but the show had to go on, even if there was still a crane standing next to the hotel the night before opening day. Needless to say, the crane was taken down overnight, as that would contradict Walt’s belief that the guest should never be taken out of the magic, and the floodgates were opened.

A monorail traverses through its future daily route as construction on the Contemporary chugged along.

In 1973, a tumultuous time in American politics, at the height of the Watergate crisis, Richard Nixon gave one of his most famous speeches and moments of his career at the Contemporary. In front of over 400 managing editors of the press, he said to the people of the United States “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook”. from a conference room on the second floor of the hotel, further solidifying the relationship Disney had with current events.

The Contemporary Resort has had a staple of dining and entertainment at the very top of the building since its inception. In 1971, this establishment was known as the “Top of the World Restaurant”, Top of the World was a place where you could watch Vegas-style performances, and drew in a sold-out crowd nearly every night. In June of 1983, a spectacle by the name of “Broadway at the Top” took this restaurant on the 15th floor to the next level. Over time, America’s tastes and needs changed, and Walt Disney World as a whole evolved in its offerings. In 1995, the Top of the World restaurant became the California Grill.

Nightly performances of “Broadway at the Top” made The Contemporary Resort a fixture for on-property entertainment.

The Contemporary Resort is not only an architectural and artistic marvel even to this day, it is a testament of Walt’s vision for the future. Walt Disney is known for innovation, pushing boundaries and remaining curious and only curiosity can lead people to new paths; it just so happens that some of those paths lead to incredible buildings, dining, entertainment and memories to last forever, no matter what year it is, fixtures like the Contemporary remind us of where we’ve been and are an example of where we can go.

 

While you’re here, take a deeper dive at what this incredible hotel has to offer!

Ticketless Disney: Experiencing Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Book Your Chef’s Table Dining Experience at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Available for Tables in Wonderland Members

Reservations Available Now for New and Returning New Year’s Eve Events at Contemporary Resort

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About the author

Roger Perez

A Florida born and raised Disnerd that can never say no to tonga toast.

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  • Other then Cinderella Castle, NO OTHER structure creates the feeling of Walt Disney World more the the Contemporary Towers. Not even surpassed by the Center Piece icons of Epcot, Animal Kingdom, or Hollywood Studios…

    The Magic of the Contemporary appearing on the Horizon as you drive up the roadway means you have arrived at Walt Disney World.

    Seeing the Monorails glide up and into the Grand Canyon Concourse is nothing but magic.

    The original decor, with the Orange and Silver light strips, spaced out and defining each Guest Room Hallway Level as the Balconies over look the festivities of the 4th Floor Lobby, and 5th Floor Monorail Station were inspirational, and the sounds of the Mexican Mariachi Band playing would echo through out giving life to the entire experience….

    The original Guest Rooms with blue and speckled pink and orange colored shag carpeting, white simple modern look furniture with chrome finishing, Giant Room Wall Map of Walt Disney World, rectangular box ceiling lights, (4 over the table by the Glass Windows which were dimmer controlled), and one lighting the Wall Map), Mary Blair Small World type Wall Pictures, and motorized channel changing Television, mean you were in a magical place which for me was a home away from home, and a place I wanted to be…

    The Fiesta Fun Center on the First Floor was a nightly meeting place, and we never missed the Electrical Water Pageant at Dock Side on Bay Lake at 10:05 nightly…

    With decor theme changes of the mid 1980’s, much of the “festive” feeling was removed from the Contemporary, although it will always be the most special of all Walt Disney World Resorts, the experience we once knew is only that of memories today.

    The destruction of the North Wing, and the Construction of the Bay Lake Tower in it’s place, took away some of the iconic skyline imagery of which was the Contemporary too.

    The festive atmosphere of the original decor lives on for me, as the lighting which one outlined the Guest Hallways within the Grand Canyon Concourse now outlines the ceiling in my Amusements Museum, as do many Guest Room wall Pictures by Mary Blair, and a Giant Guest Room Wall Map…

    The Contemporary was the ONLY place for my family to stay on or annual visits to Walt Disney World, and these wonderful memories will live in my heart forever.

  • Great article.
    I always laugh when Disney novices say they have no interest in the Contemporary because there is “no theme”.
    There is indeed a theme. But whether someone gets it or not, the Contemporary is still dripping with Walt Disney World history.
    To hard-core WDW fans, it’s far and away one of the most special & magical places anywhere on property.

  • For what it’s worth, the modular construction approach wasn’t unprecedented. Just a few years earlier the Palacio Del Rio in San Antonio was constructed in about 7 months, including 46 days to place the 500 rooms, using such an approach. That being said, the A-frame with the monorail is surely a sight to behold. Thanks for the old pictures too.

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