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A brief history of Orlando theme park VHS tapes


“Universal Studios Florida: Experience the Magic of Movies” was higher than DayQuil. Laid up on a faculty day within the middle of a Cleveland winter, when the one constant is a colorless, pencil-smudge sky, I discovered no larger solace than that videotape.

“A Day at Epcot Center” got here shut, but my illness needed to line up with a jackpot on the local library to catch that one. “A Day at the Magic Kingdom” was in the operating until our VCR disemboweled it. Even these absolutes have been thrown into disarray when Mother and Dad sent away for our first free planning video with included brochure pocket. Regardless of the VHS, once I was at my down-and-out-est, nothing revived my spirits just like the contact excessive of a Central Florida trip.

Take a trip again in time as we explore the history of Central Florida’s theme parks in a most basic format – the VHS tape.

By Jeremy Herbert

The golden age of memento tapes, the 1990s, has more than a bit to do with the history of VHS. For the first decade of its existence, Walt Disney World Resort only provided relivable vacation reminiscences in two essential codecs: 8-millimeter film and View-Master reel. The earliest VHS tape, “A Dream Called Walt Disney World,” wouldn’t grace present outlets until 1980. The business VCR was introduced to American shoppers only three years prior. It was still shiny, new, and upwards of $1,000 at most retailers.

Perform followed format, and Disney’s first memento video was aimed on the similar crowd who used to take their holidays residence on movie: families who might afford the means to point out off these cleverly disguised commercials to associates, neighbors and sworn enemies.

“A Dream Called Walt Disney World” runs a decent 25 minutes, when that was enough time to cowl every park, lodge, means of transportation, golf course and most of the fowl species found on Discovery Island. It’s the prototype for each free mail-away to return with two exceptions – a price ticket and touch of class from its closest blood relative.

Within the 1930s, for those who needed to see the world, all you needed to do was see a film. There was a greater than average probability that one of James A. FitzPatrick’s almost 300 travelogues can be the opener. His TravelTalks collection launched ports of call too far-flung for even the creativeness, like Egypt, Japan, and Florida, to audiences that would barely afford the 25-cent matinee. The method by no means modified.

Unobtrusive camerawork, letting the places promote themselves, with pans and tilts reserved for less than probably the most breathtaking views. Tourists in three-piece suits and ankle-length clothes sweating to demise in photo-fade Technicolor; FitzPatrick’s “Voice of the Globe” underlining all of it with newsman-like ease and authority.

“A Dream Called Walt Disney World” paints its subject with the same unique brush. “The Magic Kingdom is history, prophecy, adventure, fantasy, and nostalgia,” says the narrator, and it is. “The Vacation Kingdom” as introduced here’s a fallacy in terms; it’s not a trip, but a vacation spot, an oasis in a Lake Buena Vista swamp. “A reminder of a time when anything was possible, and still is.” None of the vacationers are sporting suits, but the Osmond-lite opening track, “The Magic of Walt Disney World,” cements it as the product of a bygone era just the identical.

By the top of the 1980s, the need for envy-inducing residence screenings of tapes like “A Dream Called Walt Disney World” was virtually non-existent. Based on a survey by the Opinion Analysis Corporation for the Movement Picture Association of America, 2.four % of American households owned a VCR in 1980. By the top of the decade, over 70 % would have one sitting on their television units. More vacationers than ever might watch VHS tapes, but with the mid-80s creation of the camcorder, they might now shoot their very own.

Aside from an Epcot-equivalent tape in 1983, “Walt Disney World: EPCOT Center – A Souvenir Program,” Disney wouldn’t hassle with VHS again till 1991. However the next souvenir tapes would lean into the very know-how that nearly made them obsolete.

Both “A Day at the Magic Kingdom” and “A Day at EPCOT Center” comply with tour groups armed with camcorders the dimensions of lunchboxes and the finest pastels Disney Dollars might buy. Shut-ups of Magic Kingdom Dad or Epcot Grade Faculty Instructor aiming down the sights are often answered with digital camera POV in a simulated viewfinder frame, full with purple recording dot.

Most of these photographs are exactly what you’d anticipate. However there’s gold in that b-roll, like when Dad breaks a number of park guidelines by taping his journey on Massive Thunder Mountain, or when Instructor palms his camcorder to a forged member to capture the once-in-a-lifetime reminiscence of consuming in The Land and she or he shoots some top-quality again and scalp footage. The point, by chance or otherwise, continues to be made – house video is not any substitute for the actual deal.

Now, these tapes are time capsules for a real deal that a whole era would scarcely acknowledge. The Magic Kingdom biggest hits are principally spoken for – Splash Mountain would open the following yr – but the particulars are all improper. Tomorrowland was still sporting its blinding Future-of-1971 white. Mickey lived on the again of the park. There were goats.

“A Day at EPCOT Center,” however, harkens again to a time several identities ago, when EPCOT was still an acronym and never a wierd phrase no one questions on T-shirts. The original Future World line-up is present and spoken for, including the park’s first thrill journey, Physique Wars at the almost-new Wonders of Life pavilion. The newest addition is nearly blasphemous to think about anymore: a present on World Showcase Lagoon in the humid mild of day.

Disney-MGM Studios wouldn’t have its day till 1995. Within the meantime, another studio picked up the slack.

“Universal Studios Florida: Experience the Magic of Movies” isn’t a memento a lot because the resort’s urtext. The oldest launch I might monitor down is dated 1991, but consists of 1993’s reinvention of Jaws and 1992’s Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue alongside the American Tail Theatre it replaced, and showcases 14 points of interest.

At the moment, two are left in abbreviated varieties, and solely E.T. Journey stays principally unscathed. Even with that hallowed unique roster, Universal Studios Florida’s founding priorities are spelled out in the time code; Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Films earns seven minutes of tape, but King Kong doesn’t even get three.

The video doesn’t recall a theme park, however a working backlot with a pyrotechnic pulse. Stuntmen tumbled off the buildings in New York. Speedboats ran scorching laps across the lagoon, drenching the unwary. Soundstages disguised world-class points of interest, constructed on a scale never earlier than attempted and some never again, in trendy pink-and-blue pinstripe. Sweeping helicopter photographs betray the flimsiness of every façade, but that’s the purpose – you’d by no means know the distinction on the silver display.

Driving the films, because the brochures stated, was just as essential as understanding them. Our host, a khaki-coated John Forsythe, sells it a single line: “The most lavish, exciting production ever conceived.”

That very same footage, shot for an electronic press package earlier than the park formally opened, remains within the 1994 and 1996 reissues of “Experience the Magic of Movies,” a bit further out-of-date each time. The ultimate version marks the park’s first main casualty, the Ghostbusters Spooktacular, and drops the brand-new T2-3D: Battle Across Time as a substitute, with only a momentary still of the rooftop temple of Gozer as a eulogy. They even dug up the identical go well with and shot new material with John Forsythe.

“Universal Studios Florida: Experience the Magic of Movies,” throughout its numerous incarnations, tracked the peak and decline of memento VHS tapes. PAL copies of the 1996 version, unplayable on North American and Japanese VCRS, gathered dust in the emporium past Y2K.

Within the meantime, Disney bought a sparse choice of tapes based mostly mostly on events or milestones, like 1992’s “The Magic of Christmas at Walt Disney World” or 2001’s “100 Years of Magic.” DVD loomed on the standard-definition horizon, camcorders grew fold-out viewfinder screens, and, most significantly, VHS tapes acquired cheaper.

In 1993, Disney provided the Walt Disney World Vacation Planner, the primary of its variety, to anyone who mailed away for it. Other complimentary tapes could possibly be had by way of Disney-adjacent corporations, like GM’s Make Your Magic and Premier’s Cruise and Disney Week, their first try to overcome the seven seas, however this one was made for the Mouse by the Mouse (and introduced by The then-official airline of the Mouse, Delta Airways). Convincing the parents at residence to chew the Disney bullet referred to as for a unique strategy than the 8-millimeter previews of previous.

A park-centric rewrite of “Be Our Guest” units the tone right away. This place is magic, but don’t take our phrase for it. In between stock footage new, overseas (Phantom Manor in the Haunted Mansion part) and previous (the remaining of the Haunted Mansion section), talking-head interviews with admirably real vacationers toe the road between endorsement and rationalization.

These stay and die by each man, lady and baby’s respective on-camera charisma, bless their hearts. An elderly lady, clearly the sassy one of the group, scores real laughs only for admitting she received moist on Disaster Canyon. But the poor British man with sun shades the dimensions of dinner plates and a pure monotone, tasked with explaining The Country Bear Jamboree, has no such luck: “You go inside and, uh, see a load of bears dancing around and singing […] it’s country music […] it’s a real hoedown.”

This format wouldn’t change for the subsequent decade, till Disney made the complete leap from VHS to DVD in 2004. Each release set aside a pure highlight for the newest points of interest and year-long occasions, however the actual story is within the repetition.

Within the 1993 planner, a jazzed Midwestern mom raves concerning the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island, saying her “kids loved it!” Whereas not all of the venues have been age-restricted, the misunderstanding of Pleasure Island’s meant viewers continued since opening day.

By 1995, the mom was gone and the narration bluntly amended – “Pleasure Island is the place for grown-ups to enjoy their own night without the kids.”

Only the 1996 tape calls Walt Disney’s World’s studio park Disney-MGM Studios. The remaining drop MGM, with later releases portray over the offending half of the water tower and “A Day at the Disney Studios” digitally smudging the letters above the turnstiles. It’s a distribution hiccup and as much as you’ll ever see in official Disney publication concerning the belatedly contentious relationship with the company, which inspired a 1992 lawsuit at its worst.

By 1998, the tapes not promised the likelihood of bumping into the forged of “Boy Meets World,” both. One-season wonders make inadvertently grim appearances, like the Goosebumps HorrorLand Fright Present, The Imagineering VR Lab, and Splashtacular, which gave Epcot its dancing fountains and a cybernetic tyrannosaur.

In the span of 10 years, Walt Disney World went from 5-Day Super Duper Passes that by no means expired to multi-tier Park Hopper tickets they beneficial your journey agent explain to you. These VHS tapes inform the story of Walt Disney World’s most formative decade in fast-forward, because it advanced from three theme parks and more into a real “Vacation Kingdom” that visitors would never have to go away.

Like a tape for an additional theme park promised, “Orlando will never be the same.”

Within the time since John Forsythe last reported for obligation, Universal Studios Florida modified. By 2000, once they provided their first trip planning tape, Universal Orlando was an honest-to-God resort. Two theme parks, two motels, a purchasing and leisure complicated with golf equipment that carried no expectation of kid-friendliness. In a breakneck 9 minutes, the brand-new lay of the land is spelled out in no unsure terms: “Two Days, Two Parks, One Great Vacation.” Clear sufficient copy to overlook the resort’s 1998 perilous rebranding as Universal Studios Escape, which visitors took to imply something from a 3rd park or a mixture of the 2 already there.

The only hint within the 2000 tape is the website www.uescape.com, a website presently obtainable for buy.

The 2005 planning video, the final they’d produce in any format, exhibits the resort in a extra familiar groove, midway between past and current. Jaws and Again to the Future – The Experience nonetheless make appearances, but Revenge of the Mummy – The Experience is the newest and biggest. Halloween Horror Nights had gained enough steam by then to finally earn a point out.

The 2001 tape deserves particular consideration, although, and never only because it exhibits the Green Eggs and Ham Café open for business, the Halley’s Comet of Central Florida theme park delicacies. It does one thing unusual, unheard of, and downright unthinkable – it names the competition. The friendly tour information reminds us that Universal Orlando is only a stone’s throw away from the airport, the seashores, SeaWorld, and, yes, Walt Disney World Resort.

This is hardly a comprehensive account of Central Florida theme parks on tape. Busch Gardens, Sea World and Cypress Gardens had their own souvenir movies. Just evaluating the two theme park giants tells a much bigger story than either meant. Studying between the monitoring errors reveals an abbreviated history of Orlando itself.

Walt Disney World may’ve had a 20-year head start on Common Studios Florida, however once it arrived, neither grew in a vacuum. Three parks vs. one turned 4 parks vs. two in 9 years and fewer tapes. In 1991, Common Orlando was a one-day diversion vying for guests down the road. In 2001, Universal was reminding tentative vacationers that they might keep at the Exhausting Rock Lodge and still see the Magic Kingdom without a lot problem.

The top of the VHS tape marked the beginning of Orlando as we all know it as we speak. In all my sick days, I never observed. Each video was its own piece of plastic reminiscence, indifferent and distinct from the remaining. Watched collectively now, although, they mark time virtually as well as Dad’s camcorder masterpieces. Contemplating some of these are in storage, others have rotted away, and I worry my VCR will devour the remaining, my souvenir tapes will do the trick just high quality. They’re all the time value a rewind.

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