Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Walt Disney World Preview Center

By Keith Mahne

In mid-January of 1970, the Walt Disney World Preview Center became the first building on WDW property to be opened to the public. The preview center contained many artist renderings along with updated aerial pictures of the construction. The main attraction in the building was a theater which housed a film and a 625 square foot model of the Florida property that would be illuminated as the film discussed certain areas. Let's return to the old Walt Disney World Preview Center in today's new article...

Near the intersection of Interstate 4 and State Road 535, the modern glass, concrete and steel structure was situated on the southern shoreline of Lake Buena Vista along the then-quiet Preview Boulevard. This roadway would later become Hotel Plaza Boulevard, a main artery serving traffic to the WDW Village and hotels.

Inside the building, a small army of “lovely young hostesses” treated guests to a glimpse of what they could expect to see in the fall of 1971, when the $300 million Phase One of the “Vacation Kingdom of the World” debuted.

The Preview Center was open daily from 9am to 5pm, and offered visitors a leisurely tour of artists’ renderings, an aerial view of Phase One in the form of a huge model and a motion-picture presentation that forecast what the first five years of the project would entail.

The model and motion-picture presentation included far off projects including Space Mountain, Blackbeards Island, and the never-built Asian, Venetian, Persian, and main pyramid building for the Polynesian hotel.

The Walt Disney World Preview Center was also the subject of articles in numerous magazines, newspapers and Disney publications. Take, for example, this article in the April 1971 edition of Walt Disney World News, a pre-opening large-format newsletter that tracked the resort's construction:


Walt Disney World's "Vacation Kingdon" won't open until October, but it is already a major tourist attraction ... and has been since early last year.

More than 800,000 visitors have toured Walt Disney World's Preview Center since it opened in mid-January of 1970, getting a sneak preview of central Florida's "Vacation Kingdom" for the world.  At the same time, guests are being treated to Disney hospitality by the staff of lovely and charming Preview Center hostesses, a brand of friendly hospitality that has become synonymous with California's Disneyland and will likewise permeate the Florida "Vacation Kingdom" when it opens in October.

The $500,000 Preview Center is open without charge every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located on the shore of Lake Buena Vista at the intersection of Interstate-4 and State Route 535, 15 miles southwest of Orlando.

Guests can view construction progress photographs, see scale models, artist renderings and a colorful motion picture outlining the first five years of the mammoth project.  The Preview Center also features beautifully landscaped grounds, picturesque Lake Buena Vista and a Topiary Zoo featuring sculptured animal-shaped shrubs being grown for the "Magic Kingdom" theme park.

Press information and convention service facilities, a souvenir gift shop, refreshments and executive reception areas also are included in the Preview Center.  More than 600 letters are being received each day inquiring about accommodations and reservations and requesting information about Walt Disney World's "Vacation Kingdom."

Reservations for hotel rooms and camping facilities are being processed and should be directed to '"Reservations Office, P.O. Box 78, Orlando, Florida, 32802.

Imagine being a guest and browsing all the wonderful maps, models and figures such as this one featuring the Contemporary Resort and the next one below of the Mickey Mouse Revue...

Visitors could also make reservations for a stay at one of WDW’s first two hotels, the Contemporary and the Polynesian Village, or purchase souvenirs at WDW’s first gift counter.

Today you can still drive by the building which is currently home to the Amateur Athletic Union. It’s located at 1910 Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Downtown Disney.

In the video clip below you will find a version that was similar to what played at the Walt Disney World Preview Center...

(Please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player at the top, left-hand corner of the page prior to playing the video below if you are on a desktop computer)

And be sure not to miss our article featuring rarely seen video footage of the old Walt Disney World Preview Center by clicking HERE.


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.

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