TIMEKEEPING: 1975 – Walt Disney World Blasts Off

Like the rest of the nation after the Watergate Scandal and the gas crisis, Walt Disney World entered 1975 a different place than it had been in the beginning of 1974. And we’re not just talking about attraction openings, but the events of 1973-74 changed the company’s plans and outlook for the future. What can really be described as Phase I would be complete, not quite as planned, and then what the resort would become would start to blast off.

The Magic Kingdom

The grand opening ceremony for Space Mountain featured a 2,000 piece marching band on the still unused Peoplemover track as 50,000 balloons were released. (Photo Credit: Disney)

The main addition to the park this year was the Tomorrowland addition. On January 15, the Carousel of Progress and Space Mountain opened with grand fanfare. A 2,000 member band, 50,000 balloons, a pageant of nations, and a dove release, along with astronauts Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, and Jim Irwin dedicated the rollercoaster. The ride was sponsored by RCA, and the exit would take you through “The Home of Future Living” highlighting how RCA products would shape future homes.

The final scene of the 1975 Carousel of Progress was set on New Years Eve and featured John making chili instead of  L’Omelette Superb Avec Jambon or burning a turkey (Photo Credit: Disney)

Right next door to Space Mountain, on the other side of the Skyway Station, the new version of Carousel of Progress opened the same day. Having been removed from Disneyland nearly two years earlier, this version of the attraction not only updated the final scene to be more contemporary with 1975, it also changed the theme tune to the new Sherman brothers’ song “The Best Time Of Your Life” by a request from the attraction’s continued sponsor, GE. This was to promote guests to buy appliances now, rather than wait for a “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Having the Home of Future Living less than a football field away probably didn’t hurt that line of thinking. However, notably the fourth scene seems to focus on society’s progress—not technology’s—and was set on New Years Eve, cutting to Walt Disney World’s celebration.

The Mission to Mars theater used screens in the floor, ceiling and around the room. The seat bases would move slightly to give the effect of lift off and weightlessness. (Photo Credit: Disney)

On March 15, the Circle-Vision 360° film “America the Beautiful” returned with new footage for the American Bicentennial. Across the way, Flight to the Moon reopened as Mission to Mars on June 7, following its Disneyland counterpart in March. The new attraction varied little other than the film and pre-show content. Rounding out Tomorrowland, the WEDWay Peoplemover opened on July 1, utilizing the balconies and tunnels that had been in place since 1971. This version of the ride was sponsored by The Edison Electric Institute and narrated by Jack Wagner.

Mickey, Donald and Goof on the lead float from America on Parade (Photo Credit: Disney)
Statue of Liberty Float as one of the People of America characters from America on Parade (Photo credit: Disney)
Liberty Bell Float and two People of America characters from America on Parade (Photo credit: Disney)

What can be considered the birth of the modern Walt Disney World parade premiered on June 14th on both coasts. The parade would run well into 1976 and featured both traditional Disney characters and historical figures. The parade was based around eight foot tall People of American figures, which are basically large figurines from “it’s a small world” turned into character costumes. The parade also featured several elaborate floats depicting moments and icons in American history, such as the Liberty Bell, the first Thanksgiving, and the Statue of Liberty.

Outside the Parks

Little happened at the resorts. The Grand Canyon Terrace Café switched from table service to cafeteria style at some point in the beginning of the year, and took the name the Terrace Buffeteria. The Polynesian saw refurbishments at the South Seas Room and the monorail station, where the ticket booth was removed. The Walt Disney World Village hosted two events for the first time in 1975, The Festival of the Masters as an art festival and the Glory and Pageantry of Christmas, as kind of a nativity show for the holidays.

By the end of 1975, the Magic Kingdom would be in a state that would remain nearly unchanged  for the rest of the decade, and the resorts were also cementing in the offerings for years to come. Walt Disney World had its first original attraction that would begin to travel the world over as a staple of the castle parks. Attendance had risen 15% to over 12,000,000 guests in fiscal year ‘75 recovering from the losses suffered during the gas crisis. In the years to come, the focus would be on providing options beyond the Magic Kingdom to keep guests entertained and truly make it the Vacation Kingdom of the World.

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