May 4, 2009

Surf Disney: Typhoon Lagoon

In the history of the Walt Disney World resort in Florida, there has never been an expansion as large and varied as the one that began in 1988 and was completed on June 1 of 1989! The Grand Floridian and the Caribbean Beach resorts opened during this time frame as did Pleasure Island and the Disney-MGM Studios. However, the wildest and wettest addition was Typhoon Lagoon, a Disney water park then unparalleled in theme.

Not only was this park huge, it was the first time that Disney's Imagineers had created a water complex that was every bit as beautifully detailed as one of their traditional theme parks.

Everywhere guests look, there is lush, tropical vegetation and set pieces providing great photo opportunities. If River Country, Fort Wilderness' smaller and older sibling was a test case, it must have been a great success, for Typhoon Lagoon immediately raised the bar for water parks all over the country.

Disney artists created an exciting logo to promote their newest creation.

During our visit in May of 1989, Typhoon Lagoon was still in test mode and only a selected few guests were invited to spend an afternoon there. We were not one of them! It wouldn't be until three years later with more family in tow that we would "Surf Disney" and explore the park.

Aside from the great execution of the theme, as you can imagine, Typhoon Lagoon is just plain fun! The multitude of attractions mixed with the desire to relax and do nothing at all in the Florida sun makes it a great way to spend a full day here.

Castaway Creek is the park's lazy river attraction, and if the rest of the park wasn't so enticing, I would have been tempted to relax on my innertube and float the entire day all around the place. The waterfalls, grottoes and scenery is so beautiful. Picture an extended water journey swimming through a canal at Animal Kingdom, and you'll get an accurate picture.

Of course, Disney Imagineers, being the geniuses they are, wisely did a good bit of advertising for those tempted to relax all day. Following the creek, riders also get pretty good views of the waterslides and other fun temptations.

Just a view from the top of Humunga Kowabunga speed slide.
View from the ground!

Not all of the park's thrills start high above ground level. Shark Reef (above) is one of the most exciting aspects of Typhoon Lagoon, and its inclusion pushes the park beyond its competition. The was Disney first, allowing park guests to mingle with live creatures face to fin. Imagine being able to snorkel with beautiful specimens of the sea including non-quite-maneating sharks!

Although it was still a bit unnerving, the swim was the highlight of our day. Some of us were not inclined to move past our fears and prefered to journey inside the sunken tanker, viewing the wildlife through portholes in the side of the vessel.

The swim's a great opportunity for guests of all ages in Central Florida. This fact was not unnoticed by Sea World executives, who years later created an expansion of this idea, naming it Discovery Cove.

The youngest kids in our group had a great time at Ketchakiddee Creek. With a series of adventures similiar to those offered older guests, our little guys thoroughly loved their time here.

It was pretty sweet of the designers to give them gentler versions of rides their older siblings enjoyed, making it great fun for everyone when it was time to swap stories at the end of the day.

Cousins but friends until the end!

Eventually, our exciting and relaxing day came to an end. Typhoon Lagoon was a clear hit. It was beautiful and it was fun. It was everything we hoped and expected a Disney water park would be. We wanted to do it again but time ran out.

Needless the say, the park was a hit- a big hit, and Disney executives and accountants noticed. Soon, the Imagineers were planning another water park for a future and different expansion of the resort.

(Art copyright the Walt Disney Company. Photos by Mark Taft.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I never understood why Disney did not transform this idea of waterparks and regional destinations into indoor waterparks as wolf lodge has done. It seems like it would have been a perfect situation for Disney.