Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20 - River Country Water Park Opens at Walt Disney World

This Day in Disney History - Jun 20, 1976

River Country Water Park Opens at Walt Disney World

River Country, a relaxing oasis under Walt Disney World’s hot Florida sun, began dousing guests with filtered Florida lake water in 1976. Inspired by Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, this old-fashioned swimming hole included a host of natural swimming areas covered with mountainous manmade boulders. A number of water slide attractions made the park an inner tuber’s paradise with Slippery Slide Falls, Upstream Plunge, White Water Rapids and Whoop ‘n’ Holler Hollow — two winding half pipes that emptied into Bay Cove, a 330,000 gallon half-acre, sand-bottom lake. Here, guests could relax on sandy beaches or hang out on a tire swing at Bay Lake, with the Magic Kingdom’s beckoning skyline in view. Each summer, the All-American Water Party drenched guests from April to September with water balloon games, cannonball contests, live music and splash time with Disney characters. River Country hung up its towel on September 1, 2001, when Walt Disney World’s water adventures began to head upstream — reaching new heights with the opening of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Today, you can take a plunge on Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park or conquer Crush ‘n’ Gusher at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, but hitting a water park at Walt Disney World Resort was not an option until River Country opened back in 1976.

River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

When River Country opened, it was described as a “unique new water-oriented land.” River Country promised to be “everything kids ever wanted to do at the old swimming hole down by the river in the good old days, plus all the comforts for Mom and Dad so they can participate too.”

River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

One of the areas within River Country was Whoop-N’-Holler Hollow, with two separate twisting journeys (260 feet and 160 feet respectively) plunging into The Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole.

Whoop-N’-Holler Hollow in River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

For over 25 years, River Country provided a refreshing escape from the warm Florida summers for guests of all ages.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jun 15 - The Lion King is Released

Jun 15, 1994
The Lion King is Released
The Lion King, one of the highest-grossing films of all time, was released on this day in June in New York and Los Angeles (it would open in wide release on June 24). Today, almost everyone in the world knows the story of the young lion cub Simba, who tries to find his place in the circle of life and follow the long honorable shadow cast by his father, King Mufasa, after he is killed by Scar (voiced with oozy relish by Jeremy Irons). But during pre-production, when the project was called King of the Jungle, the production teams wasn’t so sure they had a hit on their hands. “In the early stages, there was great skepticism that a modern audience would embrace a movie that didn’t include any human characters, much less one built around singing animals,” Michael Eisner, then chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, remembered in his book Work in Progress. “But through countless drafts over five years, The Lion King evolved into one of those magical films in which everything comes together… It was also a daunting standard to match.” Eisner also noted that it was “probably the most profitable film ever made, including Titanic (lions and meerkats don’t demand a percentage of the gross).”

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 08 - If You Had Wings opens at the Magic Kingdom

On this day in Disney history, If You Had Wings, one of Walt Disney World Resort’s first attractions to celebrate flight, debuted to guests in 1972.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

At If You Had Wings, guests boarded Omnimover vehicles that took them on a flight around the world, making stops in Bermuda, Puerto Rico and other vacation destinations. One stop took guests through New Orleans for a jazz band performance.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

Another stop was a city in Mexico where guests caught a lively cultural dance performance. The attraction ended by offering a bird’s-eye view of the United States, and then a descent back to the Walt Disney World Resort flight terminal.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

The attraction was very popular with guests in the 1970s, and in just six years, more than 40 million guests had taken a flight.

While the attraction was refurbished in 1987 to become If You Could Fly (the space is now Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin), the attraction’s original theme song is sure to live on in the minds of Disney fans. 

Now sing it with me: “If you had wings…”