Flushing Meadows, Queens, is the site of a huge park that is perhaps most well known today for its tennis stadium and soccer fields. But the wide walkways and massive monuments (including the massive Unisphere and the rusting observation towers) give away the park’s international past — as the site of two World’s Fairs.
The 1964-65 World’s Fair was the subject of October’s Disney Dish Podcast event, bringing Disney fans from across the area to gather and listen to stories of Walt Disney and his team of artists, designing and building attractions out of everything from animatronic presidents to singing dolls. Disney was responsible for four pavilions at the World’s Fair, including the Ford Motor Company pavilion, the State of Illinois’ Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, General Electric’s Progressland, and Pepsi/UNICEF’s “it’s a small world.”
Elements from these pavilions made their way to Disney’s theme parks, in the form of ride vehicles, dioramas, even entire attractions. The frantic pace and corporate sponsorship of the World’s Fair pavilion designs allowed Disney to fulfill some of his wilder ambitions in the theme park arena. They’ve also sparked the interest of Disney fans around the world, who see the 1964-65 World’s Fair as a seminal moment in theme park and Walt Disney history.
Journalist and Disney expert Jim Hill, alongside co-host Len Testa, founder of Disney planning site TouringPlans.com, sat down at the World’s Fair Marina Restaurant, located just a stone’s throw from Flushing Meadows Park, to discuss Walt Disney’s World’s Fair designs in a live recording of the “Disney Dish Podcast with Jim Hill.” The podcast, which makes use of Jim Hill’s extensive knowledge of Disney history and inside track on news from within The Walt Disney Company, has been in production since 2011. Past episodes have covered theme park design, Walt Disney World resorts, and informed speculation on Disney’s future plans, making it a hit with serious Disney fans.
Before a full house of fans, Hill and Testa swapped stories of the World’s Fair, Walt Disney, and the artists and builders who put the whole thing together. Most of the stories were told with Hill’s irreverent humor, describing an artist who found herself in an inappropriate position with an animatronic figure as the curtain went up for a test run with the attractions’ sponsor. “The loudest laugh,” Hill chuckled, “was Walt Disney’s.”
Outside the restaurant’s broad windows, sunlight shone down on sailboats in the marina, while airplanes took off at LaGuardia Airport, lending to the 1960s theme of progress.
Guests were treated to a full buffet lunch between talks, and afterwards participated in a question and answer session. Most questions were about the future of attractions at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, including more advanced ride systems for upcoming attractions and the possibility of a fifth theme park opening before the resort’s 50th anniversary in 2021. No and no, Hill answered to each of these questions, stating that Epcot’s newest attraction, a Frozen-based ride located in the Norway pavilion, will not incorporate the new trackless ride vehicles that are becoming all the rage in theme park design. He also nixed the constant rumor of an entirely new theme park, certainly not before 2021.
After the program, guests were able to mingle, watch World’s Fair videos, and met with Hill and Testa.
The Disney Dish Podcast event was put on by e.t.c. (events–tailor-made and customized), a New York City company which creates unique talks, parties, tours, workshops, and more. Future Disney events include a Disney trivia scavenger hunt with Jim Hill, taking participants through Disney history in the heart of Manhattan. They also offer custom parties based on Disney’s Frozen and Disney-Pixar’s Cars. Their website is etccustomevents.com.