Wednesday, December 14, 2011

87. Widen Your World

Most of us would agree that one of the greatest things about Walt Disney World is recalling our cherished memories of past vacations. Of course, cameras and video cameras certainly help capture these memories. I'll never forget when my dad ordered his first camcorder and it arrived just in time for our 1983 Florida vacation. He literally learned how to use it while walking around Disney World. In addition to this trip, we have many hours of video from additional trips in the late 80s and early 90s. Of course it is fun to look back and see how funny we looked as young kids in the 80s, but for a Disney geek like myself, it is also really interesting to see some of the past attractions that are no longer there. I know that many Disney World fans didn't have the pleasure of visiting the vacation kingdom in its early years (because alot of you weren't even born yet!). In addition, most of you don't have access to my family's video library. However, there is a great website that highlights attractions from the past called Widen Your World.
WidenYourWorld.net describes itself as "a restful haven for Walt Disney World's deceased, deferred and deflowered." In other words, it is a great place to learn about extinct attractions. Created by Mike Lee over 15 years ago, this site was the first one dedicated to Walt Disney World history. Growing up just outside the gates of "The World," he experienced the amazing transformation of Central Florida into the number one vacation destination in the country. In his younger days, Mike was even a cast member, and one of his rolls was that of a Haunted Mansion butler. Like many of us, he has great reverence for the early years of Walt Disney World. This is part of the reason he created Widen Your World. Mike also wanted to preserve the legacy of the classic attractions that are no longer there. There aren't many places we can go to learn about some of these lost treasures, but this website is a great resource.

The focus of WidenYourWorld.net are the extinct attractions from the 1971 to 1986 era which includes Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center. In Mikes opinion, these were the best years of Walt Disney World and he isn't a huge fan of today's version. Although I agree that there are many things that I greatly miss from the old days, there are just as many new attractions that I really enjoy. However, Mike is the perfect "historian" to bring us back in time and his passion for the original Walt Disney World really is apparent.
The website is very  easy to navigate. The best place to find a specific topic is the "Site Map." There are four major categories, including the Widen Your World Main Page, Walt Disney World, EPCOT Center, and The Magic Kingdom. The Walt Disney World category contains over 10 articles on subjects such as the Asian Resort (which was never built) to Discovery Island to the Walt Disney World Village, which was the predecessor to Downtown Disney. The majority of the articles, however, can be found under the Magic Kingdom heading. It is here where we find amazing material on attractions like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. To call these articles would be doing them an injustice. Mike includes an unbelievable amount of information in each one. You also find original pictures, concept drawings, diagrams and fantastic videos which can be seen through links to YouTube. Also, there is more than just extinct attractions found here. He also writes about snack bars, restaurants, and even planned attractions that never made it off the drawing board. Incidentally, one of my favorite old attractions was If You Had Wings, which is described in great detail on Widen Your World.  It is obvious that Mike was a big fan of this ride as the name "Widen Your World" is a reference to something spoken by the announcer in the final scene.

WidenYourWorld.net is truly a treasure for all fans of Walt Disney World history. If you ever wondered about the stories behind attractions that are now extinct, you simply must visit this site. However, make sure you set time aside because you may find yourself on Widen Your World for hours!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

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