During a special early-morning tweet-up hosted by Disney’s official fan club D23, a small group of D23 members (71 to be exact, a meaningful number in Walt Disney World history) and their guests joined Disney Imagineer Jason Grandt in commemorating the return of the Orange Bird, a classic advertising icon invented when the Orlando resort was in its infancy.
According to the history of the Orange Bird posted today on the D23 web site, a few months before Walt Disney World first opened in 1971 (yep, there’s that number), the Orange Bird was cooked up as an “icon both of Florida heritage and of the timeless appeal of the Vacation Kingdom of the World.” The cute character was created along with a catchy tune written by Disney’s famous Sherman brothers songwriting duo.
Though the Orange Bird officially left Walt Disney World in 1987, those who had been attending Walt Disney World since its inception had fond memories of the character and were happy to officially mark its return this morning.
The poster above now welcomes all guests into the Magic Kingdom, framed underneath the Main Street USA Train Station alongside others representing classic Disney attractions. A new line of merchandise featuring the Orange Bird has been released, including T-shirts, pins, and Mickey Mouse ear hats – some for a limited time only.
The Sunshine Tree Terrace eatery in Adventureland has been given a retro makeover, now featuring the Orange Bird on its marquee, plastic cups in the shape of the character’s head, and offers the return of the popular Citrus Swirl sweet treat.
For those who aren’t old enough to remember Walt Disney World in the ’70s and early ’80s (like me), D23′s “Armchair Archivist” offers a further exploration of the history of the Orange Bird and why he’s a meaningful part of Disney history.
Video: D23′s “Armchair Archivist” on the Orange Bird
The return of the Orange Bird began last year at Epcot’s “Florida Project” event, featuring an assortment of throwback Disney elements, also including the Skyway and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Though those two aren’t likely to return to Walt Disney World any time soon, fans of the Orange Bird welcomed his reappearance at that event and are delighted to find him in the Magic Kingdom today.
Video: Florida Project event at Epcot featuring the Orange Bird
It’s all part of a recent long line of nostalgic returns for Disney’s theme parks that spans both United States coasts. Nearby the Sunshine Tree Terrace in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World recently returned the Enchanted Tiki Room to something close to its original “Tropical Serenade” version. During the Destination D: Walt Disney World event in May 2011, D23 brought back the beloved Epcot character Dreamfinder for one night only.
At Disneyland in California, a recent Disneyland Hotel makeover has received a variety of nostalgic tributes, the most obvious of which is a pair of giant retro-themed monorail water slides over its newly renovated pool, complete with the return of the classic Disneyland sign. During the 2011 D23 Expo, Disneyland Resort president George Kalogridis announced they are working on a way for guests to experience select extinct attractions once again.
Though Disney fans are always eager to see the next incredible new technology and attractions, sometimes a trip to the past is the strongest new attraction that can be created. Nostalgia and memories of childhood trips to Disney theme parks are often more powerful than experiences the latest and greatest ride and the Orange Bird captures that spirit for those who remember him from the early days of Walt Disney World.
What would you like to see make a triumphant comeback to the parks? Comment below! (I vote for the Penny Arcade, Magic Shop, above-mentioned Dreamfinder, Horizons, and Alien Encounter to return… but I’ll keep dreaming.)