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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Remembering Circus World, the theme park that forced Disney World to step up its game in the early 1970s
 
Construction continues on the Space Mountain show building at WDW's Magic Kingdom
during the Winter of 1973 / 1974.

Jim Hill
28 Aug 2012
How tall is Walt Disney World's Space Mountain?
Seems like a relatively straight forward question, don't you think? But the way that Company officials have answered that question has changed greatly over the past 37 years.
 
 

My apologies for the quality of this illustration. But this is a copy of a
black-and-white newspaper photo showing a concept painting of
Circus World elephant-shaped hotel. To give some sense of
scale for this proposed structure, that's a full-sized Ferris
Wheel directly to the elephant's right.
huge bejeweled elephant, (Circus World's) symbol, will tower higher than a 19 story building, "the largest structure of its kind in the world."
Tourists will be able to sightsee and shop inside the giant pachyderm which will tower 350 feet above sea level. High speed elevators in the elephant's leg will whisk visitors to an observation platform shaped like a howdah atop the classic mastodon and from the top, visitors will be able to see the entire Circus World complex, as well as the surrounding countryside, as a vast panorama.
This giant structure was to have been particularly impressive at night. Given that that's when the hundreds of jewels which covered this enormous elephant-shaped hotel were to have been lit from within. Which would then -- Circus World's designers hoped -- have bathed the surrounding theme park in a cascade of colors. 
This Circus World logo (which prominently features this theme park's
elephant-shaped hotel) should give you some idea the sort of
colorful structure Irvin Feld wanted to build
Add to this the elegant two-story luxury restaurant which was to have been one of the signature elements of what Circus World hoped would eventually become this theme park's equivalent of WDW's Cinderella Castle ... And you can perhaps understand why Disney was more than a little concerned about what was being built just up the street.
And when I say "street," I mean I-4. That interstate highway which ran from Florida's beaches on the East and the Gulf Coast to the west which then served as the feeder road for the Walt Disney World Resort. And you have to understand that -- in the early 1970s -- it wasn't just the Circus World project which was being built out in Haines City that had Mickey worried. Construction of  Sea World of Florida was already underway at this point (Phase One of that sealife-based theme park would open in December of 1973, while the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus World Advance Showcase -- which was, in essence, the preview center for this Circus-themed theme park -- wouldn't open 'til February of 1974).

 
 So how did the Mouse respond to the Elephant & Killer Whale it saw encroaching on its theme park turf? Which was something that Disney took very seriously back in the early 1970s. Especially the Circus World project. You see, Mattel owned Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus at this point in that toy company's history. So it was Mattel's reportedly very-deep pockets which was supposed to fund the construction of this $60 million theme park that was going to be located just 12 miles down the road from the Magic Kingdom.
 


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