Expanding the Resort


Downtown Disney: Pleasure Island entrance & Planet Hollywood

Downtown Disney: Marketplace

Downtown Disney: Fulton's Crabhouse

Downtown Disney: Cirque du Soleil

Downtow Disney: Cirque du Soleil & Disney Quest

Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin

Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin

Fantasia Gardens

Port Orleans Resort

Port Orleans Resort

Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

The Disney Institute

Plans to add hotels around EPCOT Center had been on the drawing boards for some time. In fact, Walt had always intended to build his resorts near the theme parks for Guests' convenience.

First workers dug the 25-acre Crescent Lake to be encircled by hotels. At one time, a nighttime water show called "Noah's Ark" was planned to take place in the middle of the lake, but never went past design stages. Crescent Lake was attached by water channel to the World Showcase Lagoon to allow resort Guests easy access to EPCOT Center through the International Gateway. This channel would later be connected for boat travel to the Disney-MGM Studios.

The first resorts to open around Crescent Lake were the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin in 1990. Not owned or operated by the Disney company, these two hotels were designed by architect Michael Graves. Their eye-catching architecture features oversized geometric buildings and windows, and five-story statues of swans and dolphins on the rooftops.

Next door came Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, both opening about the same time in late 1990. In this Disney resort "first," the two hotels share similar themes and are physically connected together by a common recreation area, health club, and restaurant.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort is styled after New England's summer cottages of the 1880s. The nautical theme is unmistakable, with oak wood floors, porthole-styled windows, antique chandeliers, and brass fixtures.

Disney's Beach Club Resort returns to the seaside hotels of the 1870s. This casual setting features ceiling fans, wicker furniture, and seashell motifs.

The unique swimming area between them is called Stormalong Bay. It features a winding, sand-bottom lagoon and a 150-foot water slide originating from a shipwreck on the beach of Crescent Lake.

Two more small-scale theme parks also opened in 1989: Pleasure Island, a nighttime entertainment complex, and Typhoon Lagoon, the second Walt Disney World water park.

Pleasure Island opened officially on May 1, 1989, the same date as the Disney-MGM Studios. Walt Disney Imagineers created an extensive legend for the island's history and former owner, Merriweather Adam Pleasure. Pleasure was an entrepreneur who enjoyed traveling around the world. He had a flourishing sail-making business, but in 1941 disappeared at sea trying to sail around the globe. The island fell into ruin in the following years, and a hurricane severely damaged the existing buildings. Imagineers cleared out the overgrown jungle and rebuilt the island, using the original "funmeister's" philosophy for good entertainment to turn the old buildings into innovative nightclubs.

A large movie theater complex, using the latest in presentation technology, was built next door. The theater has hosted several film premieres, such as Dick Tracy, and special screenings, such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

Plaques detailing Pleasure's original use for each building are posted throughout the island. Pleasure's large greenhouse became a country dance bar, the Neon Armadillo Music Saloon. Imagineers converted his engine factory into Mannequins Dance Palace, a hot dance club similar to those found in New York. Magician Doug Henning contributed to the special effects found at Adventurers Club, a throwback to English safari clubs of the thirties. Memorabilia from around the world (that were given to Pleasure or brought in by international friends) cover the walls, hallways, and strange rooms.

Two unique table-service restaurants opened with the island. The Fireworks Factory used to be Pleasure's own fireworks-making facility. Inside, tables and chairs have been arranged around blackened metal siding and blown-out brick walls. The Portobello Yacht Club has a nautical setting, with model boats and sailing paraphernalia decorating its interiors.

A few changes have been made since Pleasure Island opened. The under-21 dance club Videopolis eventually became a progressive club called Cage, then the retro '70s club, 8TRAX. XZFR Rockin' Rollerdrome, a dance club and skating rink, was converted into the Rock & Roll Beach Club. A food market area is now Pleasure Island Jazz Company.

In December 1994, Planet Hollywood, an international restaurant chain owned by actors Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore, opened with a gala press event. This sphere-shaped building is 95 feet tall, and rests in Village Lake, between the AMC Pleasure Island 10 movie theaters and Pleasure Island. To achieve that effect, water was drained from the area of construction. Two hundred steel pilings were pounded into the ground to establish a solid foundation, and then a concrete slab was poured on top of that. The rest of the restaurant was completely built and watersealed before water was returned to the lagoon around it. Inside is a treasure trove of movie memorabilia: props, costumes, and models housed in wall cases or hung from the ceiling. There is even a full-size Herbie the Love Bug Volkswagen suspended high above the floor.

Typhoon Lagoon was created, according to some, by the same hurricane that swept through Pleasure Island:

A furious storm once roared across the sea, catching ships in its path, helpless to flee. Instead of a certain and watery doom, the winds swept them here to Typhoon Lagoon...

The huge wave of wind and water left nothing in the tropical village untouched. Surfboards were embedded in trees. Parts of boats and buoys dangled in thatched roofs of surviving buildings. Miss Tilly, a small shrimp boat caught in the typhoon, was left precariously atop a nearby volcano called Mount Mayday.

Originally called "Splash" in preliminary designs, this water park is four times larger than River Country. It contains more slides (including one of the world's tallest and fastest), a giant wave pool, and a large children's water area. Special heaters are strategically placed around the landscaping and in pools to keep the "tropical waters" warm year round. Typhoon Lagoon opened June 1, 1989, providing Guests with even more cool relief from the Florida summer heat.

Plans to add hotels around EPCOT Center had been on the drawing boards for some time. In fact, Walt had always intended to build his resorts near the theme parks for Guests' convenience.

First workers dug the 25-acre Crescent Lake to be encircled by hotels. At one time, a nighttime water show called "Noah's Ark" was planned to take place in the middle of the lake, but never went past design stages. Crescent Lake was attached by water channel to the World Showcase Lagoon to allow resort Guests easy access to EPCOT Center through the International Gateway. This channel would later be connected for boat travel to the Disney-MGM Studios.

The first resorts to open around Crescent Lake were the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin in 1990. Not owned or operated by the Disney company, these two hotels were designed by architect Michael Graves. Their eye-catching architecture features oversized geometric buildings and windows, and five-story statues of swans and dolphins on the rooftops.

Next door came Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, both opening about the same time in late 1990. In this Disney resort "first," the two hotels share similar themes and are physically connected together by a common recreation area, health club, and restaurant.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort is styled after New England's summer cottages of the 1880s. The nautical theme is unmistakable, with oak wood floors, porthole-styled windows, antique chandeliers, and brass fixtures.

Disney's Beach Club Resort returns to the seaside hotels of the 1870s. This casual setting features ceiling fans, wicker furniture, and seashell motifs.

The unique swimming area between them is called Stormalong Bay. It features a winding, sand-bottom lagoon and a 150-foot water slide originating from a shipwreck on the beach of Crescent Lake.

Also in 1990, The Walt Disney Company created a new corporate office for its expanding responsibility in protecting our natural resources. Since the beginning of the Walt Disney World Resort, all projects have been carefully arranged around protected wetlands. Company biologists go into the field and examine any area under consideration for development. Their goals are to determine that construction will not harm or destroy any endangered species or water environment necessary to Florida wildlife. Other scientists continually take water and soil samples, monitoring property-wide natural resources.

Throughout Walt Disney World history, the resort has experimented with different ways to save energy and fuel for utilities and its parks. Environmental Affairs was established to implement and oversee recycling programs across the corporate board. The Walt Disney World Resort put extensive recycling programs on line, beginning with backstage areas and a few resorts. Soon several types of Cast Member and Guest handouts were being printed on recycled paper. Recycling programs expanded to all the resorts and parks and backstage areas were soon outfitted to handle recyclable materials, such as separate barrels for different colored glass, plastics, etc. All areas now receive monthly report cards comparing how well they did during the current month to the previous month.

Jiminy Cricket is the "Environmentality" program mascot, promoting preservation of the environment. Chip 'n Dale are the official recycling mascots.

In 1990, Michael Eisner announced "The Disney Decade," an unparalleled list of expansion plans for Walt Disney World that promised more attractions, more resorts, and more entertainment for the "Vacation Kingdom of the World." Some of the projects mentioned have yet to appear, others have been shelved, but more have been created, providing a plethora of entertainment options for young and old.

Nightlife at Magic Kingdom Park would never be the same after October 1991. The "Main Street Electrical Parade" made its final run before record crowds in September; the new parade appeared to take its place: "SpectroMagic."

Show technology had improved dramatically in the past twenty years. This parade uses the same lighting and synchronized show concepts as the previous one, but includes the latest in holographic images, military lighting, fiber-optic cable (over 100 miles), video projectors, and liquid-nitrogen smoke. Scenes from the Silly Symphonies, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Fantasia are brought to life in several series of floats, live performers, and characters. The "Main Street Electrical Parade" moved to Disneyland Paris and can still be seen there.

The Walt Disney Company moved into the vacation ownership trend by creating the Disney Vacation Club. This was the first of several vacation clubs opened throughout the country. Each resort would be uniquely themed after traditional styles found in the region in which it was built. This particular resort is named Disney's Old Key West Resort, representing that South Florida style of community around the turn of the century. Condominium-style vacation homes feature pastel colors with white trim and balconies. The entire resort is also linked to the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. This resort opened in 1991.
Two more moderately priced resorts made their debut in 1991 and 1992. Similar to Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, they are similar in theme, yet contain atmospheres unique to themselves. They are not physically connected, but rather are separated for theming purposes. In the tradition of Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, they feature rooms with a central check-in, food court, and swimming areas.

Opened May 17, 1991, Disney's Port Orleans Resort re-creates the streets and rowhouses of New Orleans' French Quarter. Various ornate house styles are decorated with wrought-iron railings and typical Southern landscaping. Oak trees, crepe myrtles, and magnolias are abundant throughout the riverside buildings. The large food court area is fashioned after warehouses where float pieces and decorations are stored for the city's Mardi Gras celebrations.

The waterway which slowly curves around the resort banks is called the Sassagoula River. It provides access to the Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island by water taxi. The journey follows the lazy water channel through some of the resort's more quiet, natural areas, and the Disney Village ResortJust up the Sassagoula River is Disney's Dixie Landings Resort. It represents several styles of Louisiana homes found farther up the Mississippi. There are three styles of dwellings, ranging from the small cottages of the rural bayous, cracker-style houses, and the elegant manors found on many southern plantations.

The story behind the resort, a once-bustling riverfront community, begins with an individual known as the Ol' Man. He was the first settler in this area in 1835. He built a small home, a well with a water flume, and a dock on a small island near the river. He lived all alone for some time, building his own bridges and walkways, until the area went under massive growth. River commerce brought in new settlers and businessmen. A small community, complete with a steamboat company, cotton mill, and a boatwright shop, was soon built. The Ol' Man created a play area for children and opened his fishing hole to everyone.

Disney's Dixie Landings Resort opened on February 2, 1992. All the buildings built at this prosperous river hub remained intact and were used as the hotel's main facilities. Even the old fishing hole is stocked for Guests to try their luck.

Imagineers wanted a very large, old oak tree for the recreation area's swimming pool. They finally found one more than one hundred years old, located twelve miles away. No problem for Disney engineers and horticulture experts to move it. A special cypress box 22 feet square was built to hold the tree's immense and delicate root system. The tree-moving team slowly unearthed the tree, keeping it hooked to cranes above. The 85-ton oak was then lifted onto a flatbed tractor trailer and moved at a cautious speed of four miles per hour. It took three days to reach the resort, and because of its height and branch span, 108 light poles and six traffic signals had to be moved out of its path. This resort is also connected by water taxi and can transport Guests up the lazy river to the Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island.

The Bonnet Creek Golf Courses opened in 1992. The two championship courses, Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge, were designed by noted course architects Pete Dye and Tom Fazio. The courses took two years to construct around the natural woodlands near Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Also in 1992, the 28,000-square-foot Materials Recovery Facility opened its doors near the tree farm. The facility separates and processes many materials, such as office paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, and steel. Separated materials are bought by vendors, used as compost, or taken to landfills.

A new sports tradition at the Walt Disney World Resort began on the cold January morning of the 16th, 1994. Approximately 8,200 runners from around the world lined up for the first annual Walt Disney World Marathon. Regular Cast Member and Guest pathways were blocked or detoured to form an ingenious and captivating course. The 26.2-mile route ran along normal and backstage roads, past several resorts, and literally through all three theme parks. Now the marathon course includes music played in selected areas, light shows, bands, and of course, waving Disney characters and Cast along the route to keep participants alert and motivated.

The success of this marathon also paved the way for a whole new venue for the Resort. Within three years, more sports events would be coming to property, and a full-scale facility would be built.

Once again, to fill the need of moderately priced resorts, a unique concept was brought to life. This time, it would feature an innovative salute to two of America's popular entertainment themes. With rooms comparable to Disney's Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans, and Dixie Landings Resorts, Disney's All-Star Sports and Music Resorts would be surrounded by larger-than-life icons familiar with each genre.

Disney's All-Star Sports Resort opened in May 1994. Each building section features a specific section. Touchdown! has giant footballs and team helmets, with large Xs and Os lined up on a football field for the hotel courtyard. The Home Run Hotel pays tribute to baseball, with towering bats and drink cups. The Hoops Hotel theme features basketball goals, whistles, and megaphones. Center Court has a tennis theme, with referee chairs and tennis ball cans. Finally, Surf's Up! features gigantic surfboards and shark fins. Along the top of each building are cutouts of spectator heads, as if a crowd were watching the games below.

The All-Star Music Resort, which opened in November 1994, has five themed areas. Calypso features giant maracas and conga drums. Jazz Inn has saxophones and spotlights. Juke boxes and guitars represent the Rock Inn, and cowboy boots are the predominant theme for Country Fair. Finally, Broadway Hotel is highlighted with top hats and ticket booths. The pools at the music resort are shaped like a guitar and a piano.

After twenty-four years of sitting on the drawing boards, the Fort Wilderness resort hotel finally made its debut as Disney's Wilderness Lodge. The early designs of this fort are strikingly similar to the current resort: a large, rustic fort with timber walls.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge is themed after the national park lodges of the Northwest, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone, circa 1860-70. The spirit of the West is captured in many designs, paintings, and artifacts of Native American culture decorating the resort. Totem poles with carved deer, buffalo, and other animals rise majestically toward the seven-story ceiling in the lobby. Some of the tribes represented here are the Blackfoot, the Cheyenne, the Crow, and the Sioux. There are also many maps and paintings of Western explorers advancing into the wilderness.

Much of the material used to construct the lodge was shipped in from the West. Hundreds of lodgepole pines decorate the interior or are outside, supported by a foundation of granite flagstone. In the lobby, a bubbling pool flows out into the back promenade, where outside, it becomes a small river, meandering around a forest landscape. The river flows over rocky outcroppings and into the main swimming pool. Disney's Wilderness Lodge opened in May 1994. A similar-type resort has already been built at Disneyland Paris called the Sequoia Lodge.

Two dramatic changes occurred in the Magic Kingdom Park and EPCOT Center in 1994 that promise lasting effects on both parks' entertainment and education value. Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom Park had been growing out of date ever since opening in 1971. Its original purpose was to showcase and demonstrate new technologies mankind would be using someday, a bit more serious theme than the park's other lands. Clearly the architecture and attractions represented how we viewed the future in the 1970s. Visions of how the future could appear constantly changed every year, while Tomorrowland stayed the same. One attraction, Flight to the Moon, lasted only four years because traveling to the moon was no longer an unfathomable goal. Mission to Mars was the next step into the solar system, but even its technology grew old quickly.

Numerous refurbishment's were planned throughout the years, but no one had a perfect angle to keep Tomorrowland up to date while adding more entertainment. The answer finally came from Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris. It pays tribute to the world of visionaries like Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Their view of what the future would look like included one-man rocket ships, time machines, and gigantic, oddly shaped city buildings.

Tomorrowland took that theme even further. Using futuristic images created by science fiction writers and filmmakers of the 1920s and '30s, it would become a specific community. This city has oversized, machine-like architecture, neon towers that light the night sky in a multitude of colors, and attractions that could only have been invented in "the future that never was." It has its own mass transportation system (the Tomorrowland Transit Authority), electric company (Tomorrowland Light & Power Co.), and convention center (Metropolis Science Centre).

EPCOT Center modified its technology displays in the CommuniCore pavilions into dynamic, innovative exhibit areas now known as Innoventions that will constantly change as new products are created. Innoventions showcases the latest home, work, and entertainment technologies with hands-on demonstrations. Guests can try out the hottest new computers, gadgets, and games, some of which are not even on the market yet. In 1996, the name of the theme park became simply Epcot.

Up until now, River Country and Typhoon Lagoon had experienced record crowds summer after summer. Water recreation parks were gaining popularity across the country, especially in Central Florida. With the two water parks on property closing their doors due to capacity every day, the Disney company decided to create a third: Blizzard Beach, the largest water park at the Walt Disney World Resort and the most unusually-themed resort attraction in Disney history.

According to Imagineering legend, a freak winter storm blew ice and snow over 57 acres of land near Disney's All-Star Resorts. But intended plans for Florida's first snow-ski resort ground to a halt when summer temperatures began melting the snow-covered area. The resort operators were about to close the lodge when they noticed an alligator sliding down the slopes on "liquid ice." They soon discovered what the alligator already knew: the melting snow had actually created thrilling water-park attractions out of the ski and sledding courses.

The 120-foot-high Summit Plummet, the ski jump on top of resident mountain Mt. Gushmore, is the world's tallest and fastest free-fall speed slide. Several other slides, toboggan runs, and flumes twist and turn along the mountain's half snow/half tropical slopes. There are pre-teens' and children's play areas, as well as a lazy creek circling the entire park, and a beach area. Blizzard Beach opened in April 1995.

For the past few years, the Walt Disney World Resort had an increasing amount of Guest groups coming to the resort for pre-arranged events. Out of this need to accommodate these large numbers of people and events, a convention department was created specifically to coordinate everything from hotel-room reservations to hall arrangements to catering. Disney's Grand Floridian Beach Resort and Disney's Contemporary Resort opened their own convention centers to join the already packed convention space across property.

The most popular events requested on property are weddings. The "Fairy Tale Wedding" department evolved out of convention sales, again coordinating each event with the Guests involved. It eventually developed entire packages for Guests so that they didn't have to plan their own at all. The centerpiece for this department is the Disney Wedding Pavilion, which opened just down the beach from Disney's Grand Floridian Beach Resort on July 15, 1995. Featuring the same Victorian-style architecture as the nearby beach resort, this pavilion is large enough to host weddings of 250 Guests or more and can be rearranged for smaller, intimate ceremonies.

On January 27, 1996, the Walt Disney World Resort hosted the inaugural Indy 200 race in the new, state-of-the-art Walt Disney World Speedway. The race was put together by the Resort's new sports department and the Indy Racing League. From design to reality, the racetrack took about ten months to construct next to the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Each curve in the one mile track has its own unique banking, providing a bigger challenge to veteran drivers.

A collection of old-growth trees were growing right in the middle of where the track was to be, but they were spared and moved near the backstretch. The "Mickyard" was designed for temporary seating so space would not be wasted when no races were taking place.

A unique vacation experience opened next to the Disney Village Marketplace on March 2, 1996. The Disney Institute, described as a "discovery resort," was designed to let Guests explore their own creative abilities through 40 different educational programs. Guests have the opportunity to be a chef, television producer, artist, interior designer, and more by choosing their own set of classes, ranging from entertainment arts (like animation, television, and radio production) to environment (bird-watching, gardening, topiary growing, and wilderness study), from fitness (sports medicine, aerobics, and outdoor programs) to culinary (cooking techniques, healthy dining, and planning for parties), and others. Featured program facilitators include celebrities from each field, such as recognized actors and actresses, musicians, and chefs.

Disney designers built a complete set of classrooms, audio/visual studios, a fitness center, and theater for the institute's learning facilities. The entire area is themed as a 'quintessential' rural American town, with tree-lined streets and many garden areas. Architect Tom Beeby used specific country building architectural styles to create a quiet, relaxing atmosphere. Now Guests not only have the opportunity to visit a world where dreams come true, but produce their own in an environment catering to their every need. The villas at Disney Village Resort were renamed the Villas at the Disney Institute. Although a section of rooms has been designated as campus housing for the institute, the rest are still open to Guests.

With a brilliant swirl of color, Roman architecture, and Disney magic, another hotel amenity designed for Guests and conventioneers appeared between the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Walt Disney World Swan on May 20, 1996: Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf. There are two putting courses, Fantasia Gardens and Fantasia Fairways. Fantasia Gardens re-creates five different scenes of the Disney animated feature Fantasia, complete with Gothic statues and dancing fountains. Set in the traditional style of miniature golf, this course is interactive, requiring Guests to putt around hopping mushrooms, falling snowflakes, and pirouetting ostriches in a variety of challenges. Fantasia Fairways is a regular putting course, but designed to challenge even the most skillful golfers. It is literally a miniaturized golf course complete with exaggerated contours, water hazards, and tricky sand traps. There is also a 22,000-square-foot meeting facility for outdoor events next to the courses.

The last of the Epcot resorts planned around Crescent Lake opened July 1, 1996. Disney's BoardWalk re-creates the vacation charm of the Mid-Atlantic coastal cottages of the 1930s. The resort complements the similar atmosphere found across the lake at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts (all three were in fact designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern). This resort is unique in that it combines a regular Guest room section named Disney's BoardWalk Inn with a number of units belonging to the Disney Vacation Club named Disney's BoardWalk Villas. The buildings wind along a large, wooden promenade (made of Ekki wood from South America) overlooking Crescent Lake. Guests can enjoy an entertainment district featuring a lively collection of restaurants, merchandise shops, a sports bar, a dueling piano bar, and a 1940s-style dance hall which showcases music from the '40s to the '90s.

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