TIMEKEEPING – 1985 – EPCOT Center’s “Mistake on the Lake” Debuts, Too Many Dragons, and Disney & MGM Strike Deal for New Theme Park

TIMEKEEPING – 1985 – EPCOT Center’s “Mistake on the Lake” Debuts, Too Many Dragons, and Disney & MGM Strike Deal for New Theme Park

1984 had been a year of change, but it was just the beginning. Michael Eisner and Frank Wells came into the company with a vision to expand its reach and utilize all of its assets, and they wasted no time in bringing that philosophy to Walt Disney World. EPCOT had been a priority as it was not living up to expectations, but they weren’t stopping there. Before their first year was over, plans had already been announced for Disney World’s third theme park.

The Magic Kingdom

Main Street, USA saw a few changes. The Greenhouse was removed as a shop. The Hallmark Card Shop would become Disney Clothiers on February 24th and the Tobacconist would become the Gibson Card Shop. Tobacco products would still be available at the Market House across the street. Kiosks selling plush and sundries were added to Adventureland and Fantasyland in old ticket booths, though they might have existed since ticket books went away and were only added to maps in 1985. A similar location, named the Space Place, was added to Tomorrowland.

Disney Clothiers displaced the previous card shop as Main Street shops were shuffled around in 1985. (Photo credit: Disney)

The Country Bear Christmas Special actually started in November 1984. The new show featured all the normal cast and featured a mix of perennial Christmas songs with originals.

County Bear Christmas Special - December 1984
The ensemble case in their holiday best from the Country Bear Christmas Special. (Photo credit: Disney)

The entire soundtrack is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Tracks in the Snow, 12 Days of Christmas (Oh What a Christmas), The Hibernating Blues, Deck the Halls, Rock and Roll Santa, Blue Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Hungry as a Bear, The Christmas Song, Another New Year, and Let It Snow/Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Winter Wonderland. The characters are dressed in Christmas attire such as Santa hats, scarves, and earmuffs. There are added props such as skis, penguins, and Christmas decorations hanging from Buff, Melvin, and Max. Along with the change to the show, the Bearly Country Shop opened on June 6th, 1985.

You can watch the full show here:

Mickey’s Street Party parade replaced the Donald Duck Birthday parade in January of 1985. The parade used redecorated floats from the Donald parade. Mickey and Donald led the parade on a float featuring a large circular sign bearing the name of the parade surrounded by dancers with streamers and various characters. This was followed by two bucket-shaped floats and then a long unit made of circular platforms featuring Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale, and Minnie. The finale float was made up of the Pooh characters on stepped platforms. This would also be the first time the Magic Kingdom Easter parade would be broadcast on ABC.

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The floats of the Mickey’s Street Party Parade were redressed versions of those used in Donald’s Birthday Parade. (Photo credit: Disney)

EPCOT Center

EPCOT saw few changes in 1985. Most of what changed was rounding out World Showcase pavilions. China would finally receive restaurants in the fall when both Nine Dragons and Lotus Blossom Cafe opened on October 23rd and September 24th, respectively. Heritage Manor Gifts opened at the American Adventure. In Italy, il Santi began to just be referred to as Fine Leather Goods.

Disney Charaters dressed for the World Showcase pavilions appeared during WorldFest at Epcot. This character was dubbed “Clansman McGoofy.” (Photo credit: Disney)

September also saw the premiere of Skyleidoscope. The show featured sailboats, jet skis, speedboats, small planes, and ultralight aircraft. Some of the boats were decorated as dragons. The daytime show revolved around the concept that the dragons were keeping the Dreamfinder from filling the sky with rainbows. The show was originally only run on weekends, but was later expanded to run five days a week from Saturday through Wednesday. The ultralight aircraft would take off from a private flightpark where the Pop Century/Art of Animation complex is today. The vehicles would trail banners, spew colored smoke and the show even featured daytime fireworks and a balloon release.

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Dragon decorated speedboats provided the villains of Skyleidescope. (Photo credit Disney)

There were several special events at EPCOT as well. After the inaugural parade had been cancelled in January in Washington, D.C., EPCOT Center hoster President Regan along with a 2500 person band, fireworks, and an Air Force flyover. WorldFest had actually begun in September of 1984 but continued through most of 1985. Each month would highlight a country in World Showcase starting with September 1984 and the opening of Morocco, Oktoberfest in Germany, Italy in November, and the UK in December. 1985 started with China, Canada, France, Japan, Mexico and wrapping up in June-August with the summer showcase of the Rockettes at a “Star-Spangled Salute to America.”

Michael Eisner with President and Nancy Reagan at the Memorial Day Inauguration reprisal in EPCOT. (Photo credit: Disney)

The Resorts

The Polynesian would undergo significant changes in 1985. Most notably the name would change from the Polynesian Village Resort to just the Polynesian Resort. The Pago Pago and Moorea longhouses opened, along with extra walkways around the resort, beach, and to the Transportation and Ticket Center, with refurbishment beginning on the others. The Maui longhouse was named Maori, as part of a refurbishment started on all existing rooms. The Great Ceremonial House also saw some construction as luggage storage and the monorail platform both were expanded to make room for the additional guests. Over at the Village Marketplace, the Port of Entry store became Mickey’s Character Shop on October 25th.

Mickey's Character Shop Left Side of Airship Walt Disney World Shopping Village
Mickey’s Character Shop featured a wide variety of Disney merchandise as well as heavy theming including the large airship. (Photo credit: Disney)

Disney-MGM Studio Tour is Announced

At the annual shareholders meeting in February, the company officially announced the Disney-MGM Studio Tour. The original concept only discussed the tour and the actual film facilities which were described as equaling the Burbank operations. It was being labeled as a gated “attraction” and not specifically as a park, though some references were made to it containing other rides, merchandising, and restaurants. The company was also clear that this was a licensing deal to use MGM-UA Entertainment film library and name, not a partnership.

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While obviously a little optimistic on production compared to what eventually happened, this early rendering of the Studios wasn’t too different from what would be built. (Photo credit: Disney)

1985 was barely underway and the Eisner Era had begun with a bang. Epcot was undergoing its needed improvements. The resort was adding theme parks and resorts. The majority of what 1985 would bring to Walt Disney World would fall away to time, but it was the planting of a seed we would see start to grow in 1986.

    1. Every Disney document from the 80’s indicates they weren’t there opening day and there’s no photographic evidence we’ve found otherwise.

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