The Wonderful World of Water
  Ski Show

   1972 - 1973

Here comes a skier on a kite!

"I'm going back to school!"

 


The
Wonderful World of Water Ski Show

Extinct WDW Live Production

Alternate Name:
WDW Water Ski Spectacular
 
Location:

Seven Seas Lagoon

Opened:
  Summer 1972
Closed:
c. September 1973

Influences evident in:
Later character-based
waterskiing tomfoolery

All images copyright
The Walt Disney Company.
 Text copyright 2006
Mike Lee

Photos of Butterfly girl riding on the guy and skiers at night from the collection of
Bill Cotter

 

     The sight of Goofy, Donald or Pinocchio splashing their way across the Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake on waterskis has been relatively familiar to WDW guests riding the ferryboat to or from the Magic Kingdom or spending leisure time near or on the water for many years.  These antics hail back to the early 1970s, when the resort was in its infancy and a wide range of entertainment options were being tested.  One of the more odd offerings from that time period flashed briefly along the surface of the lagoon and was titled the Wonderful World of Water ski show.*

     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 and one-half foot ramp.  The kite act, depicted below 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 hippopotami 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 the 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 WDW Entertainment department productions, such as Epcot's Skyleidoscope, utilized water and air elements in a fashion not entire dissimilar from the early ski show, but none relied more heavily upon the raw physical skills of their performers.  Still, the show's quick disappearance was truly not half as surprising as the fact that it even existed in the first place.
 

Film Footage of WDW Skiers
wmv file, 2.8mb, :57
excerpt from The Magic of Walt Disney World film, 1972

 
Guests sit on their grasses enjoying the show at twilight   Walt Disney World Vacationland Spring 1973 cover - photograph from the top of a ski kite   VOID CHILD DOG SKI3, 2, 1 ... jump the shark!    One clear reason why WDW's show kicked Cypress Gardens' to the curb
Disney costume designer Tom Pierce discusses tear-away features of the butterfly suit with skiers   What makes him think we won't cut the rope?   Goodbye Duck of the Night!



* The show was originally just called the WDW Water Ski Spectacular.  It appears that between the show's first and second season an effort was made to upgrade the production by making it "more Disney" via an infusion of additional characters and more elaborate costumes.   

** You can imagine what it would be like to ski at night dressed as Dumbo and take a spill ... spending what would feel like a really long time wondering if that was how you would die - drowning in total darkness wearing an elephant suit.

*** A lot of smart people worked at WDW in 1972, which is why I'm certain that someone must have suggested having Captain Hook skiing from one boat while the crocodile skied behind another, ready to chomp once more on raw pirate while the captain took shots at him with his pistol - ultimately igniting a barrel of explosives in the other boat and instantly killing the driver in a fiery cataclysm through which the crocodile would then glide and emerge unharmed save for smoke trailing from his tail.  But apparently the idea was not realized on the water.