Home » 6 Must-Watch Videos for People Who LOVE Retro Walt Disney World

    6 Must-Watch Videos for People Who LOVE Retro Walt Disney World

    We all love Walt Disney World, but sometimes, it’s fun to look back at how the Vacation Kingdom used to be. Thankfully, we have YouTube.

    Walt Disney World has changed dramatically since it first opened in 1971: three new theme parks opened, dozens of hotels began operation, countless rides have come and gone, shops have been built, Fastpass was added, Fastpass was completely changed, and so on and so forth.

    In fact, the only thing that’s remained constant through the years has been change itself. I would argue that’s a good thing (as would our own Matt O’Keefe), because it keeps the parks from becoming stale and engenders that sense of excitement and discovery that keeps us all coming back.

    Nevertheless, it’s hard not to feel a bit nostalgic for the attractions and experiences of a time gone by.

    Even if you’ve only been to Walt Disney World once, or not at all, there’s something sociologically fascinating about the kinds of experiences families enjoyed in the decades before. And if you’re a Disney lifer, a trip down Memory Street USA can be just as much fun as a visit to the real place.

    Thankfully, YouTube has us covered, offering hundreds of hours of footage from the Disney World of yore. If you like looking at how the World has changed, or if you want another glimpse at that now-demolished attraction you remember so well…what follows is for you.

    6. The 1987 Walt Disney World Information Channel

    One of the great small joys of a Disney vacation is the experience of arriving at your resort hotel, turning on the TV, and seeing the special Walt Disney World channel. It serves as visual confirmation that, yes, you are in fact at the Vacation Kingdom and, yes, your only task in the coming days is to have as much fun as possible. If you have a job, or school work, or any other real-world obligation, that moment is the moment when all that stress melts away.

    This was no less true in the Walt Disney World of the late 80s.

    The above video (and its second part) shows a recording of that in-room channel, as it would have looked in 1987. There are some obvious differences from today (notably the fact that there are just two theme parks), but the channel served largely the same purpose then as it does now – to introduce guests to all the offerings of Disney World. Of course, nowadays, that’s a much tougher task.

    At 3:31 in the video, make note of the extended look at Epcot’s The Living Seas (now The Seas with Nemo and Friends) which had just opened in 1986. Later in the video (around the 6:07 mark), you can even get a glimpse of the original Disney Village, which has since been updated as Downtown Disney (and will soon become Disney Springs).

    5. The 1993 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Video

    Disney’s vacation planning videos are fascinating in that they provide a snapshot of what Disney World was like at a particular time. The 1993 version is one of the longest, clocking in at almost 45 minutes. The reason for that length? Lots and lots of change.

    Michael Eisner became the CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 1984. Eisner spent his first few years on the job stabilizing the company’s filmmaking wing, and at the end of the 1980s, the company began churning out hits again: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin are just a few examples.

    As a result of that success, Eisner set out to push the company to newer heights in what would later be called the Disney Decade – a period lasting roughly from 1989 to 2001 (depending on who you ask). The Disney Decade saw Disney World expand into the enormous, jam-packed resort we know today.

    Just in the years between 1987 and 1993, Disney World opened nine hotels, a water park, a theme park, and a nightlife complex. That’s an awful lot of growth, and its part of the reason the 1993 Vacation Planning Video is so long – there was simply so much new stuff for prospective guests to be acquainted with.

    The section about the “Disney Studios” (they always had trouble naming that place) begins at 10:30 and remains one of the best looks at what the park was like when it opened.

    4. and 3. A Day at the Magic Kingdom and A Day at Epcot Center

    These two videos are part of a set of souvenir tapes guests could buy in the 1990s. Both are an extended look at their namesake parks, as told through the eyes of nominally-real parkgoers.

    They are, essentially, extremely well-produced home movies that can give you a guest’s-eye view of what the parks were like back in the day. If you’re a Disneyphile, this sort of thing is the closest you’ll get to actually being there. For those of us who were there, they provide quite a few “oh, I remember that!” moments.

    For example, at the 14:11 mark in the Magic Kingdom video, you’ll get reacquainted with the Mike Fink Keel Boats: an attraction based on Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett that circled the Rivers of America until 2001.

    And in the Epcot edition, at around 6:49, you get an extended look at the Imagination! Pavilion, including the original ImageWorks and Rainbow Corridor.

    2. The 2000 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Video

    Nearing the end of the Disney Decade, Walt Disney World put together an incredible celebration honoring the new millennium. This video shows some of the unique aspects of that celebration, while also marking the changes that occurred around Disney World in the late 1990s.

    Of course, the most notable addition is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, DisneyQuest, Blizzard Beach, and the Wide World of Sports all opened in the intervening years.

    Ultimately, what you’ll notice is that the Disney of today doesn’t differ too greatly from the Disney of 2000, and there’s something to be learned from that. The hotel boom slowed and the emphasis shifted from core upgrades of the entire resort to changes at the fringes – a pattern Disney has followed until very recently.

    But the video’s greatest value is in the walkthrough of the millennium celebration, beginning at 3:40. And if you listen closely – you’ll probably recognize the accompanying song. The show it comes from has been playing every night at Epcot since the millennium began.

    1. Electrical Water Pageant

    The more things at Disney change, the more they stay the same. Even during the Disney Decade, the focus was always on generating new experiences for families to share and new stories that would amaze guests for generations to come.

    While some of the most lasting things at Disney World are timeless, some remain in spite of their blatant anachronism. One such experience is the Electrical Water Pageant, a floating parade that has run in Walt Disney World’s Seven Seas Lagoon since the resort’s very first month.

    It’s beautifully dated, featuring synth-y versions of classic Disney songs, adorable floating light shows, and a charming patriotic finale. While it has changed slightly over the years, the experience remains the same. It’s wonderfully retro and can still be viewed on the Lagoon to this day.

    After you’ve watched the modern version in the video above, check out this version recorded on Super-8 in 1976 – they’re almost identical:

    That just goes to show: if you want to experience retro Walt Disney World, you don’t have to go searching the depths of YouTube or your family’s attic. Some of it can still be found in the World – if you know where to look.