Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Wonderful World of Water Ski Show

By Keith Mahne

The sight of Goofy, Donald or Pluto splashing their way across the Seven Seas Lagoon on waterskies would have been a familiar sight to WDW guests riding the ferryboat to or from the Magic Kingdom in the early 1970s. When the resort was in its infancy, a wide range of entertainment options were being tested. One of these more odd offerings flashed briefly along the surface of the lagoon and was titled The Wonderful World of Water ski show. Let's take a look back at this short lived, early piece of WDW history in today's new article...

A joint venture between WDW's Recreation and Entertainment departments, the show was viewed from a "special" vantage point (the grassy hillside between the Magic Kingdom monorail station and the lagoon) that was accessed by a special gate.  During the show's first season, tickets cost 50 cents.  In 1973, guests presented a "D" ticket or paid 75 cents to gain admission. There were five shows daily, some taking place as late as 11:00pm.

Among the acts in this aquatic spectacular were an eight-person, three-tiered pyramid, an exposition of flex-wing kite flying at 300 feet over the water and a series of jumps over a five foot ramp. The kite act, shown above on the cover of Walt Disney World Vacationland's Spring 1973 issue, was relatively new to waterskiing at that time and was considered to be something of a fantastic feature. In this show, the kites were outfitted with flares, which created a dynamic effect when viewed in the evening hours. 

The cast of costumed Disney characters employed in the production ranged from Goofy and Pluto to Dumbo and the hippo from Fantasia.  And while all indications are that The Wonderful World of Water ran for only two summer seasons (beginning in June 1972), its legacy of characters on skis continued on.

Dick Pope (the "Dean of Florida Tourism" and founder of Cypress Gardens) was probably less than delighted when he learned of Disney's plans to stage this show.  After all, waterskiing had been one of Cypress Gardens' major draws for decades. And Pope, a friend of Roy O. Disney's since the 1940s, surely didn't anticipate this kind of head-on competition from WDW so overtly and so early on - especially with Roy's death occurring a mere six months prior to the show's debut.  Furthermore it could be reasoned that at least a few of the 23 cast members in WDW's show must have "defected" from that old park down the road.  In any event, the show's short life span might have yielded some consolation...and some out-of-work skiers, at least until Sea World opened in December 1973 and soon thereafter began its own daily waterski shows.

Later in WDW history, some of the Entertainment department productions, such as Epcot's Skyleidoscope, utilized water and air elements in a fashion similar to the early ski show, but none relied more heavily upon the raw physical skills of their performers like the original. Still, the show's quick disappearance was truly not half as surprising as the fact that it even existed in the first place.

Here now is a short video featuring The Wonderful World of Water ski show in action:

Source: Widen Your World

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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I really enjoyed this article and am so happy I just discovered your website! So many wonderful articles that I don't know where to begin! I have also just fell in love with the music player and all the music to pick from in the playlist. I think I just found my new favorite Disney blog