Did you know that Disney World has a hit album of its own? The year 1989 was a big year for Disney World as guests enjoyed a number of new attractions, restaurants, and even new parks! In fact, a number of new sights and experiences that made their first appearance in 1989 are just as popular today as they were then. So let’s take a look at 1989: A Disney World Album to see what hits debuted at Disney World twenty-five years ago.

Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon

This Disney World water park opened on June 1, 1989 and has charmed guests for years with its scattered, windblown theme. The story behind the park is that a typhoon swept through and turned a tropical paradise upside down as evidenced by the leaning buildings, shipwrecks, and other odds and ends strewn about in a rather amusing fashion. The icon of the park is a shrimp boat, the “Miss Tilly,” which the storm left perched atop Mount Mayday. The centerpiece of the park, and probably its biggest claim to fame, is the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool. It is one of the largest wave pools in the world releasing 6 foot waves every 90 seconds! In my opinion, this pool is worth a visit to Typhoon Lagoon alone. Believe me, once you’ve spent some time here, you will be ruined on any other wave pool anywhere else for life. Although, there is more to be enjoyed at Typhoon Lagoon, such as the thrilling Humunga Cowabunga slides, the relaxing Castaway Creek, the Crush n’ Gusher water coasters, and so much more. Typhoon Lagoon also is famous for Shark Reef, where guests have the opportunity to snorkel around a shipwreck with bonnethead and leopard sharks, stingrays, and schools of fish. What makes this experience even better? Your snorkeling equipment is free with the price of admission! While some guests prefer the incredible wintry theme and thrills of Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon’s laid back, tropical atmosphere and incredible surf pool makes it my favorite of Disney’s water parks.

Delta Dreamflight

This Magic Kingdom attraction first debuted in Tomorrowland in 1989, showcasing the history of flight and a possible look at what airline travel could be in the future. The finale was a simulated flight through the clouds, which was my personal favorite part and one of earliest Disney World memories. Does anyone else remember this? Delta Dreamflight closed and was replaced by an attraction known as Take Flight. Today, the space is now home to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

©Disney
©Disney

Pleasure Island

Pleasure Island, a section of Downtown Disney geared more towards adults, first opened in 1989 and featured clubs, shops, and restaurants. In 2008, Disney decided to close the clubs at Pleasure Island; and now, Disney has unveiled their fresh, new vision for Downtown Disney known as Disney Springs. This remake looks to offer new shopping and dining opportunities for families visiting Disney World, but with a more cohesive theme; and if you’ve been to Downtown Disney lately, you have surely seen all of the construction! Personally, I’m glad Disney is remaking Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island with a more timeless style and a family-friendly focus and I’m optimistic about what we will see in this space soon.

©Disney
©Disney

Hollywood Studios

On May 1, 1989, Disney World’s third theme park, MGM Studios, first opened its gates; but the park it was then was very different than the park we known today. For example, today, the park is known as Hollywood Studios and is home to several incredibly popular attractions, such as the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Midway Mania. However, back in 1989, there were very few attractions on those park maps, mainly The Great Movie Ride and the Studio Backlot Tour. The park recently celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year and is expected to undergo some changes in the near future, many of which are still under speculation but some have already been revealed. For example, Disney has announced that they will soon be removing the iconic Sorcerer’s Hat and that Turner Classic Movies will be the new sponsor for the Great Movie Ride. Some fans be alarmed by the changes, but change is nothing new when it comes to Hollywood Studios. You see, this park was probably Disney’s biggest hit of 1989 and hasn’t stopped changing and evolving throughout its twenty-five years, all while maintaining its popularity. What I hope to see in the park in the coming years? More Star Wars and more Pixar, please!

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

This Italian-style restaurant, located on the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A, first opened as Tony’s Town Square in 1989 and was themed after the famous spaghetti and meatball scene from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. The movie plays on a television in the restaurant’s lobby for young guests, and the dining room contains references to the classic film. If you happen to be dining around the time for the park’s nightly Main Street Electrical Parade, request a table near the windows for a great view. While a request won’t guarantee the table or location that you want, it never hurts to ask and Disney usually does what they can to accommodate guests wishes.

Little Mermaid in the Festival of Fantasy Parade
Little Mermaid in the Festival of Fantasy Parade

The Little Mermaid

While Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a film, not an actual addition to Disney World, I had to include it because the film’s story and characters have become steady additions to the Disney World parks and resorts due to its successful release in 1989. In fact, The Little Mermaid deserves a lot of credit because many consider it to be the film which sparked the Disney Renaissance, an era of success that the company hadn’t experienced since the days of Walt Disney and which only encouraged growth and attendance for the Disney World Resort. So just where can you see Ariel and the gang at Disney World today? At Hollywood Studios, you can enjoy the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show and Ariel’s presence in Fantasmic. The Little Mermaid also has a scene in Mickey’s Philharmagic and has had a consistent presence in many park parades over the years, including in the Magic Kingdom’s newest parade, Festival of Fantasy. The Little Mermaid also has its own themed wing at the new Art of Animation Resort and its own statue outside the Disney’s Beach Club Villas and more. For example, years ago, the Magic Kingdom had a section of Fantasyland dedicated to Ariel and her friends called Ariel’s Grotto where guests could meet the popular mermaid. That section closed but New Fantasyland now has a Little Mermaid attraction, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, housed inside of Prince Eric’s castle along with the new Ariel’s Grotto where, once again, you can still meet Ariel herself. It’s now one of my favorite parts of the Magic Kingdom! (Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid will be undergoing refurbishment from February 2, 2015 to March 6, 2015.)

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

Star Tours Rex
Star Tours Rex

I have a confession. I am a huge Star Wars nerd and therefore, Star Tours at Hollywood Studios is one of my most favorite attractions in all of Disney World; but it isn’t just important to me. In fact, since this motion simulator attraction first debuted at Disney World’s MGM Studios in 1989, it has been making big waves for the Disney Company and Disney World ever since, as well as serving as the launchpad for the annual Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios. The attraction itself was the product of a partnership between George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, and Disney which paved the way for Disney purchasing Lucasfilm and the ability to create new Star Wars films in recent years. But let’s get back to the attraction itself, shall we? You see, the Star Tours of 1989 is not the Star Tours we know today. The first Star Tours focused on the original trilogy where guests were told they were taking a tour to Endor, only to have their inexperienced droid pilot, Rex, accidentally drop them in the middle of the battle to blow up the Death Star. This version closed in 2010, only to be reopened in 2011 as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue featuring a 3-D randomized experience with over 50 story combinations, featuring characters and locations from all six films. For those of you who still remember the original version, keep an eye open when waiting in the Star Tours queue for Rex, the old Star Tours pilot, who has been labeled defective!

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Another George Lucas addition to Disney World in 1989 was the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. This live show at Hollywood Studios is all about illustrating how action scenes and stunts are performed for movies with a focus on scenes from Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The show is both thrilling and amusing and proved to be a successful addition to the park in that it is still entertaining guests of all ages today. The show is also known for using guest volunteers, as long as they are over 18 years old. If you are an Indy fan, take some time to look around the area outside the show for nods and references to the Indiana Jones films.

Wonders of Life Pavilion

This Epcot pavilion first opened in October of 1989 with a focus on educating guests about health and the human body. A few of the attractions that belonged to this pavilion were Cranium Command, an amusing look at how different parts of the brain influence us; and Body Wars, a motion simulator attraction which illustrated how the human body defended itself from a splinter. Over the years, the Wonders of Life began operating only seasonally; but in recent years, the pavilion has served as extra space for special events, such as Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, just minus the attractions.

As you can see, 1989 was truly a big year for Disney World producing a string of hits, many of which are still delighting guests twenty-five years later. Which of these 1989 attractions are your favorites? Do you remember the Wonders of Life pavilion, Delta Dreamflight, or the original version of Star Tours?

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. What a year! Dream Flight was also one of my first memories of Disney! I would ride it over and over again, just for the simulated flight part at the end.

  2. I think we may have gone in 1990 when everything was still “new”. I remember the lazy river concept was the most amazing thing ever (who new it would be so common today)! We did Typhoon Lagoon and Critter Country (which I miss). I was only a teenager (13ish) and we went to Pleasure Island. I couldn’t wait to be an adult and go into the clubs where you had to be over 21 (although the Adventure Club was the neatest places I had ever been). And MGM Studios was a blast even with nothing there! I loved the Sound Stage and there was an acting thing where they picked people to go on stage. I was dressed up like a 60s singer and sang “A do run run”. That was my first trip to WDW and it was amazing. Perhaps that is why it remains my happy place 🙂

  3. I remember them all and really miss Wonders of Life and Delta Dreamflight. While I also enjoy Buzz and don’t mind that replacement as much, seeing the dormant pavilion just makes me sad with Wonders of Life. Even if they made it something different (beyond a Food and Wine spot), I’d be good with it. It just feels strange to have a massive pavilion without anything to see.

  4. Eastern Airlines used to sponsor that attraction. “Eastern the Wings of Man”.
    Was it called “Dream Flight” then?

  5. Winston is correct, the attraction you mentioned was sponsored by Eastern Airlines. Which so happened to be the official airlines of Walt Disney World!
    My Dad worked for this airline for many years before it went under.

  6. And I believe the name of it was called “If you had wings”.
    I’ll have to double check with my Dad on that one.

    • Brenda, you have a good memory! If You Had Wings was sponsored by Eastern Airlines and was the predecessor to Delta Dreamflight. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I miss an attraction that I never got to experience, Wonders of Life! After reading about it and watching home movies uploaded to Youtube I really wish we could have seen it. Our first trip was in 2005 but we didn’t go to Epcot because someone told us that there wasn’t anything in Epcot for kids (our son was 8 at the time) so we missed out on the tail end of it’s “life”.

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