Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Best Of" Week: It all started with a Mouse… And a Preview Center

Actually it started in the late 50's and early 60's when I was a child watching The Mickey Mouse Club. I loved watching The Mickey Mouse Club, Spin and Marty, and The Hardy Boys. (For you younger folks, "Spin and Marty" and "The Hardy Boys" were serials that were shown as part of the original Mickey Mouse Club.) And on Sunday evenings we watched Walt Disney introduce The Wonderful World of Disney. We never went to the movies much but I still remember sitting in the balcony with my parents at the Alabama Theater to watch the Disney movie "Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus" staring Kevin Corcoran who played "Moochie" in the Spin and Marty series.
My sister and brother-in-law lived in central Florida and on one of our trips in 1970 they took us on a long drive down Interstate 4. There was absolutely nothing around except orange groves as we drove into the middle of nowhere. We finally turned off the interstate and soon found ourselves on a beautifully manicured four-lane road with large oak trees hanging with Spanish moss that lead to a modern looking steel and glass building. The trees stood out as they did not match the orange groves surrounding our trip down the interstate and I found out these were part of the Disney "magic" transplanted into the landscape.

The building was the Walt Disney World Preview Center. Here we were able to see what Mickey and Walt had planned for the Florida Project. The Preview Center featured a video that had aired on The Wonderful World of Disney with Walt Disney telling us his plans for this wonderful vacation world in central Florida. It also included clips of the construction of the Magic Kingdom attractions. There was also a large miniature display of the entire Magic Kingdom. Lights would spotlight different places in the Magic Kingdom as a hostess described the attractions awaiting us once the park opened October 1, 1971.

When we would visit my sister we would spend the day at the Magic Kingdom. When I married the love of my live in December 1973 we came to the Magic Kingdom on our honeymoon. Over the last 36 years we've watched the World grow as our family had grown. And now our children are the creators and main contributors to this blog. When my daughter asked me to be a guest contributor she reminded me that I can be credited "with starting the WDW obsession." She is now passing "Growing Up Disney" along to her daughter.

A few years ago, it finally dawned on me that the ubiquitous Preview Center building still existed among the hotels leading from the Crossroads Shopping Center to Downtown Disney. It is now occupied by the offices of the Amateur Athletic Union. Every time I drive past there I still remember my first trip down that four-lane road to preview what "Uncle Walt" was building in Florida.

The Walt Disney World Preview Center was the first attraction open to the public at Walt Disney World. It was open from January 1970 through September 1971.

Did you visit the Preview center? Or have any questions? Let us hear your story.

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