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Villas/Village Resort/Disney Institute
Villas/Village Resort/Disney Institute
Phase One: Residential Community
In June of 1973, plans were announced for a residential area on Walt Disney World property. It was to be called Lake Buena Vista and there would be four themed areas: Golf, Tennis, Boating and Western. All four areas would have their own townhouses. Another announcement was made in May of 1974. A total of 133 town homes had been built and a shopping center called Lake Buena Vista Village was being constructed. A company called Lake Buena Vista Communities was planning to build single family homes, apartments and condos in the near future.
That July, a construction contract was awarded for a retirement community, vacation townhouses, and apartments. The shopping village opened in March of 1975 and 60 Treehouse villas were completed that October but something was missing. There were facilities for vacationers but none for permanent residents.
Disney had realized that the municipality would require people who lived in Lake Buena Vista to have voting privileges on resort construction and there would also be taxation issues. This same realization doomed Epcot from having any permanent residents as was originally intended. No one would live on Disney property until the town of Celebration was started in 1994.
Phase Two: Villas Near the Village
The next phase of Villa history is marked by name changes galore and it can be hard to untangle the names and descriptions for all of them. What is consistent is that all the villas were designed to showcase energy-efficient housing ideas. They were built clustered around courtyards and cul-de-sacs to conserve space and green areas. The Villas became know as the Village Resort in 1985 and the Disney Village Resort in 1989. During this time period, guests had variations on the following accommodations to choose from:
Vacation Villas: These were one-and-two bedroom dwellings. They were renamed as Townhomes when the property was remodeled as the Disney Institute.
Fairway Villas: Open from 1978-2002, these two-bedroom villas were energy efficient with their roof overhangs and double glazed windows.
Treehouse Villas: These two-bedroom octagonal villas made their debut in 1975 and were on top of ten-foot high pedestals to withstand flooding and allow for natural drainage. They closed in 2002 and were used for housing international College Program Cast Members from November of 2005 to January of 2008. They then became part of the accommodations for Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.
Club Lake Villas/ A.K.A. Club Suites: They were added in August of 1980 and were meant to appeal to conventioneers attending meetings at the Walt Disney World Conference Center. They became Club Suites in 1989 and featured two queen-size beds and a sofa bed. There was also a separate sitting area. They were renamed as Bungalows when the property was remodeled as the Disney Institute.
Grand Vista Suites: There were four of them and they were originally constructed as model homes for the abandoned residential development.
In 1996, the Villas became part of the Disney Institute. The Vacation Villas became known as Townhomes and The Club Lake Villas/Club Suites became known as Bungalows at this time.
Phase Three: An Institute
The Disney Institute opened February 9, 1996. It was inspired by the Chautauqua Institution in Jamestown, New York.
Guests stayed in Villas that were previously part of the Disney Village Resort. When the Institute first opened, there was a three-night minimum stay. Some existing buildings were modified and new ones were constructed. Tom Beeby designed the new buildings to look like a small-town community.
Institute buildings included 28 program studios, a 225-seat performance center, a 1,150-seat outdoor amphitheater, a 400-seat cinema, a closed-circuit TV station (DITV) a radio station (WALT) and a sports and fitness center with a full service spa. The resort restaurant was called Seasons and featured a themed dinner menu that rotated nightly. The Institute store was called Dabblers. Guests could choose from more than 80 programs including:
Animation Production Workshop (2 hours): Work alongside a Disney Institute animator and create film clips. Learn drawing techniques such as squash and stretch.
Clay Animation (3 hours): Become a part of a film production unit chronicling the 20th century through clay animation.
Computer Animation (2 hours): Create a digital film at a computer workstation.
Discover Animated Characters (2 hours): Learn about Disney animation and paint an animation cel.
Disney Character Drawing
Lazy cooks were thrilled to find out that all ingredients were already premeasured for them before the class started and they didn't have to deal with the clean up!
Culinary Technique: Brush up on your cooking skills.
Taste of the World (2.5 hours): Prepare a dish that offers a culinary tour through a specific region.
Celebrations: Southern Living Style (2.5 hours): Learn new ways to entertain from the pages of Southern Living.
Pastries and Confections (2 hours): Create desserts while learning professional baking techniques.
Tastes of Southern Living (2.5 hours): Recreate recipes from the pages of Southern Living.
The Art of Healthy Cooking (2.5 hours): Prepare nutritious, low-fat dishes that are delicious.
Wine, Wonders and Song (2 hours): Explore food and wine pairings with a professional chef.
Advance Wine Appreciation: The Art of Wine Blending (2.5 hours): A sommelier will help you improve your ability to evaluate wine.
Romantic Dinners: Learn how to prepare a romantic dinner for that special person in your life.
Designing Gardens (2.5 hours): Learn the basics of garden design, theming, color, texture and form, and how to choose the right plants.
The Creative Gardener (2.5 hours): Learn about windowboxes, trellises, water ponds, containers and more.
Wonders of Plants (2.5 hours): Discover the history of herbs, the culture of roses or the use of flowering vines.
Gifts From Your Garden
Living Off Your Own Land
The Great Outdoors:
Golf Clinic: Improve your swing with a Disney Institute golf pro.
Rock Climbing (3 hours): After learning basic rock climbing techniques, scale the 26-foot high outdoor rock structure.
Tennis Clinic: Improve your backhand with a Disney Institute tennis pro.
Better Home Videos
Outdoor Photography (4 hours): Learn new lighting and camera skills as you photography wildlife, birds, and flowers.
Exploring Photojournalism (4 hours): Use your camera to tell a story.
Candid Portrait Photography (3 hours): Capture the personalities of your photography subjects.
Traveling Photographer (4 hours): As you go through World Showcase at Epcot, photograph the architectural details.
Television on Location (3 hours): Cover the news, produce a short documentary or direct a mini drama for broadcast on the Disney Institute TV channel.
Television Studio Live (2 hours): Play the role of an anchor person, audio technician, camera operator or director as you go on the air with news for the Disney Institute TV channel.
Abracadabra! It's Magic
Artsurround (3.5 hours): Kids can discover their creative side during a trip to Epcot.
Broadway Bound (3.5 hours): Learn to act, sing and dance Disney style.
Discovery Island Kid Venture (3 hours): Visit Discovery Island for the hiking and bird watching.
Face Magic! (3.5 hours): Learn how illusions are created at the theme parks with makeup and transform your own face.
Swamp Stomp (3.5 hours): Take a nature safari through a cypress swamp and learn how to protect the environment.
Art Magic (3.5 hours): Examine the animation process and paint a cel.
Discovery Island Explorers (3 hours): Assist Discovery Island staff by taking population counts and setting up for one of the live animal shows.
The Funny Papers (3 hours): Learn cartoon secrets for making a comic strip.
Stealing the Show (3.5 hours): Get an up-close look at the elements of a good show.
Show Biz Magic (3.5 hours): Go into the Magic Kingdom utiladors to see the behind the scenes show magic.
Rock Climbing for Youth (2 hours): Learn climbing techniques and scale the outdoor rock sculpture.
Antique Treasure Hunting
As Walt Would Tell It
Imagineer It!: A real Disney Imagineer will help you to design your own theme park attraction.
Improv InterActing: Learn the skill of Improv at Pleasure Island.
Midlife and Beyond
Time and Organizational Skills
The Institute was an attempt to allow guests to have a vacation with a dose of educational entertainment. There was just one problem. Guests wanted the vacation part but not the educational part, even if it was supposed to be entertaining. This led to a new phase in the Villa story.
A pin from the Disney Institute.
Phase Four: Post Tourist and Back Again
At the start of the 21st Century, Disney realized that tourists didn't want an "educational" vacation. Money had been spent on the renovation of the villas and the construction of new buildings. How could the investment be recouped? The solution was to turn the Disney Institute into a place where business professionals could come to learn the "secrets" behind Disney's customer service and business culture at multi-day seminars. The accommodations for the participants were at the Villas.
In 2002, Disney announced that the Disney Institute would be developed into a new Disney Vacation Club property. It became the Saratoga Springs Resort in the spring of 2004.
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