Yester World Reminders of Defunct
Magic Kingdom Attractions
“Then and Now”

cover of Walt Dismey World Information Guide, Summer/Fall 1974
In February 2009, I published a photo essay about reminders of defunct attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park. I featured places that used to be attractions, were still visible to guests, but were no longer attractions.
Last month, I went back to the same spots to see what had changed. In this update, you can compare my photos from 2009 with photos of the same spots in 2013. The drawings and descriptions in the left column are from Walt Disney World Information Guide booklets of the mid-1970s.
Werner Weiss
Curator of Yesterland, November 29, 2013
Plaza Swan Boats (Main Street)
early WDW attraction art: Plaza Swan Boats
“Enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Magic Kingdom waterways. (Summer Only)”
“D” coupon or 75¢
former Plaza Swan Boats dock
Former Plaza Swan Boats dock, 2009
  former Plaza Swan Boats dock
Former Plaza Swan Boats dock, 2013
  former Plaza Swan Boats canal
Former Plaza Swan Boats canal, 2009
  former Plaza Swan Boats canal
Former Plaza Swan Boats canal, 2013

The Plaza Swan Boats operated seasonally between May 1973 and August 1983. The leisurely ride on the Plaza Swan Boats circled around the Hub and into Adventureland, where it passed behind the Swiss Family Treehouse. Because each boat required a cast member, it was costly to operate. Although the ride has been gone for three decades, the loading dock and the canals still grace the Hub at the Magic Kingdom.

If Disney ever wants to add more ride capacity to the Magic Kingdom, it would be great to see new Plaza Swan Boats, perhaps without a live guide (just as Living with the Land at Epcot now operates without live guides). It wouldn’t please thrill seekers, but it could be a very pleasant scenic ride for all ages—much like the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. It would be even better with some new topiaries and flower beds along the canal.

Not much changed between the 2009 and 2013 photos. Some of the trees are smaller in 2013, providing better views of the fireworks for some locations around the Hub.

Diamond Horseshoe Revue (Liberty Square)
early WDW attraction art: Diamond Horseshoe Revue
“A rollicking stage show right out of the Old West featuring a cast of dancing girls, comedians and singers including Slue Foot Sue herself.”
Free Attraction
Diamond Horseshoe exterior
Diamond Horseshoe Saloon as a sandwich shop, 2009
  Diamond Horseshoe exterior
Diamond Horseshoe Saloon with its doors closed, 2013
  Diamond Horseshoe interior
Diamond Horseshoe stage with no performers, 2009
  Diamond Horseshoe menu
Diamond Horseshoe sandwich menu, 2009
  Diamond Horseshoe closed sign
“Go somewhere else” sign on the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, 2013

In the tradition of Disneyland’s old Golden Horseshoe Revue, the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 with the Diamond Horseshoe Revue, a Western saloon show with cancan dancers, singers, a live band, and even comedian Wally Boag—who relocated from Disneyland for the Magic Kingdom’s first three years—playing Pecos Bill and a traveling salesman. Old-timers can’t help but remember how much more fun it used to be.

In the 2009 photos, the saloon was just a sandwich shop, without entertainment.

These days, the role of the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon is usually just to provide additional food service capacity on busier days. In the 2013 photos, the saloon’s doors are closed because it wasn’t being used for anything that day—which also explains why there’s no 2013 interior photo.

I wish Walt Disney World management would add the Diamond Horseshoe Revue (or similar Western music hall entertainment) back into the Magic Kingdom’s entertainment budget.

Perhaps there’s some hope. As “Limited Time Magic” for Halloween week 2013, the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon hosted The Happy Haunted Horseshoe, with the Cadaver Dans, Dearly Departed Stan the piano player, and morbid magician Abner Cadaver. It seems someone at the Magic Kingdom understands that the Diamond Horseshoe is a prominent entertainment venue, not just an overflow lunch room.

Mike Fink Keelboats (Liberty Square)
early WDW attraction art: Mike Fink Keelboats
“A backwoods water journey to adventure on the Rivers of America.”
“B” coupon or 25¢
former Mike Fink Keelboats dock
Former Mike Fink Keelboats dock, 2009
  former Mike Fink Keelboats dock
Former Mike Fink Keelboats dock, 2013

The Rivers of America waterway at the Magic Kingdom suffers from a lack of river traffic. The Liberty Belle makes its loop every half hour, and Tom Sawyer Island Rafts shuttle across the river. But, for the most part, it’s more like a placid lake than a lively river.

The Mike Fink Keelboats were not only a different way to travel on the water, they also made the view from the shores of Frontierland and Liberty Square more enjoyable.

Walt Disney Story (Main Street)
early WDW attraction art: Walt Disney Story
“Follow Walt Disney from his boyhood through the creation of Walt Disney World. See rare film footage, narrated by Walt himself. Presented by Gulf Oil Corp.”
Free Attraction
former Walt Disney Story theater
Town Square Exposition Hall, 2009
  former Walt Disney Story theater
Town Square Theatre, 2013

The Walt Disney Story attraction (1973-1992) was on Town Square in a building designed to look like a hotel—complete with guestroom balconies. The location later became Exposition Hall. It’s now the Town Square Theatre.

As the 2009 photo shows, a sign on Exposition Hall promised “Milestones in Animation.” That made it appear to be an attraction. In fact, Exposition Hall was listed as an attraction in Magic Kingdom Guidemap pamphlets, but the description was, “Houses Disney’s PhotoPass Center. Presented by Kodak®.” There was also retail merchandise, some photo backdrops, and a small theater in the back showing cartoons. Exposition Hall was not an attraction in any real sense.

These days, Magic Kingdom guests meet magician Mickey Mouse in his dressing room at the Town Square Theatre, as shown in the 2013 photo. Mickey talks, moves his mouth, and blinks.

Main Street Cinema (Main Street)
early WDW attraction art: Main Street Cinema
“Enjoy classic films of the silent screen era.”
“B” coupon or 25¢
Main Street Cinema exterior
Main Street Cinema, 2009
  Main Street Cinema exterior
Main Street Cinema, 2013
  Main Street Cinema interior
Main Street Cinema as a retail shop, 2008
  Main Street Cinema interior
Main Street Cinema as a retail shop, 2013

The marquee on the Main Street Cinema proclaims, “Now Showing: The Art of Disney.” But it’s not announcing the name of a film; it’s announcing that this is another Art of Disney store, just like at Epcot and Downtown Disney, or like the Animation Gallery at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Main Street Cinema was originally an attraction—and at Disneyland Park in California, it still is. At Magic Kingdom Park, the interior became retail space in 1998. A single video screen in the back of the store shows classic Disney animation, but it doesn’t come across as a movie theater.

Main Street, U.S.A., has always been a balancing act between giving guests a place to spend money and an early twentieth century experience. Over the years, the balance has tipped more and more toward the shopping mall end of the spectrum.

Penny Arcade (Main Street)
early WDW attraction art: Penny Arcade
“A room full of fun for a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter.”
former Penny Arcade
Former Penny Arcade with Hall of Champions canopy, 2008
  former Penny Arcade
Former Penny Arcade with Main Street Fashion Apparel canopy, 2013

The Penny Arcade at Disneyland Park has been reduced to a small fraction of its old size, but the Penny Arcade at Magic Kingdom Park was eliminated entirely in 1995.

Signs and distinct façades along the west side of Main Street promise small shops, but the Main Street Emporium has grown to fill almost all the space behind those façades. Main Street is largely a Disney character merchandise store.

However, there are still some opportunities to experience “attractions” by watching skilled cast members producing handmade goods. The candymakers at Main Street Confectionery make tasty treats as guests watch. The glassblowers at Crystal Arts have been making glass souvenirs since the park opened, while the amazing glass artist in the back of the same store was a new addition in early 2008.

Main Street at the Magic Kingdom has one business that Main Street at Disneyland never had—a traditional barber shop, providing traditional men’s haircuts and many first haircuts for toddlers.

Skyway (one way from Tomorrowland)
early WDW attraction art: Skyway
“A scenic aerial journey high over the Magic Kingdom.”
“D” coupon or 75¢
former Skyway station in Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland end of the defunct Skyway, 2009
  site of former Skyway station in Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland end of the defunct Skyway, 2013

The Magic Kindom’s Skyway has been gone since November 1999. The cables, towers, and mechanical systems were removed quickly, but the stations at both ends stuck around for many years afterwards. They were reminders of how guests used to float gently across the sky above the Magic Kingdom.

For almost ten years after the Skyway closed, the Tomorrowland station provided a highly useful function at ground level—restrooms—while the upper level, a sad remnant of the past, served only as the top of a waterfall fountain.

Work began in summer 2009 to transform the Tomorrowland station into a single-story restroom building. It reopened in November 2009.

Skyway (one way from Fantasyland)
early WDW attraction art: Skyway
“A scenic aerial journey high over the Magic Kingdom.”
“D” coupon or 75¢
Rapunzel restrooms in Fantasyland
Fantasyland end of the defunct Skyway, 2009
  former Skyway station in Fantasyland
Rapunzel restrooms, 2013

It was surprising that Walt Disney World made no effort to disguise the original function of the former Skyway stations for so long. They both had large openings for the “buckets,” which could have been disguised.

In the 2009 version of this article, I suggested that if the Magic Kingdom ever decided to offer beer, the former Skyway stations could have been reworked as beer terraces. Making the second levels accessible to all would have required ramps or elevators, but that wouldn’t have been prohibitive, considering the potential revenue.

The Fantasyland station stayed around until 2011. Then it was demolished to make way for a charming new entrance into Fantasyland from Liberty Square—complete with Rapunzel’s tower, a delightful courtyard, and large restrooms—completed in 2013.


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© 2009-2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated June 27, 2013.

Scan of Walt Disney World Information Guide cover © Disney.
Scan of attraction art © Disney.
All photos by Werner Weiss.