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If You Had Wings/If You Could Fly

If You Had Wings/If You Could Fly

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Eastern: Your Wings to the Family Vacation Kingdom

Walt Disney World Eastern Airlines poster

 Headquartered in Miami and dominating air routes between New York and Florida, Eastern Airlines was the first official airline of Walt Disney World.  During the Grand Opening special, Eastern aired an ad that would go on to be quite infamous where a girl has a nightmare and tells various characters in a forest (the Seven Dwarfs, the Mad Hatter, The Big Bad Wolf and the Walrus from Alice in Wonderland) that she is looking for the Magic Kingdom and if they know the way there.  They either run away, laugh or ignore her.  She then sees a boy dressed as Peter Pan sitting in a tree and he whistles at her.  She asks him if he knows the way and he replies, “Sure I do.  But can you fly?”  She shakes her head no as his words echo around her and dizzying shots of the forest are shown, ending with a shot of Dumbo.  She then wakes up and the voice of Orson Wells says to the viewer:  “You can fly.  To a Magic Kingdom that’s right outside your hotel window.  To Walt Disney World in Florida.  On Eastern.  The airline of Walt Disney World.  The airline that believes dreams really can come true.  The wings of man.”  The airline later made another commercial featuring animated characters flying an Eastern plane to Walt Disney World which dates around 1973 since Robin Hood and Little John were among the passengers.  During the early years of park operation, the short-lived Walt Disney World STOLport ran shuttle flights in conjunction with Eastern Airlines flights that flew into Central Florida airports.   

Walt Disney World Tomorrowland If You Had Wings Exterior

 Eastern’s Tomorrowland attraction opened on June 5, 1972.  It was a free attraction that utilized the Omnimover system and 85 projectors.  The ride consisted entirely of projected footage (even though the music was loud in the ride, it was possible to hear the projectors) and sets that were built to frame the projections.  The effect was also used later in the El Rio del Tiempo boat ride in the Mexico pavilion in EPCOT Center.  The outside of the building had the Eastern logo on the left side and on the right side under the attraction name there was verbiage that said “a flight of fancy through the world of Eastern Airlines admission free (this last line was removed once ticket books were no longer in use)”.  

Exterior sign for If You Had Wings Tomorrowland Walt Disney World
(Thanks to George Jen/Videofrom George YouTube Channel for this picture.)

Walt Disney World Tomorrowland If You Had Wings Boarding area

Once inside, the loading area was set up to look like an airport boarding area.  A departure board displayed the “destinations” of the ride vehicles:

Caribbean And Island Ports Of Call
Su Casa Service To Old San Juan
The Pyramids Of Ancient Mexico
The New Orleans Jazz Flight
Bermuda's Underwater Reefs
The Adventure Specials
Bahamas 700 Islands

The arrival board on the opposite side near the Omnimover boarding ramp listed the following:

Miami-The Sun Fun City
Louisville-Derby Town
Seattle-The Queen City
New York-The Empire City
Portland-The Rose City
Los Angeles-City Of Angels
Atlanta-Crossroads Of The South
Detroit-The Motor City
The Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World Tomorrowland If You Had Wings Interior

 As the vehicles left the loading area,  they would enter a large globe that had projections of flying birds  (surprisingly similar to the still unbuilt Walt Disney World Village) and airplanes.  The vehicles would rotate backwards and then turn around to go up an incline.  The projections encountered during the ride included:

Mexican scenes featuring an Aztec pyramid, cliff divers, flower boats and a fiesta.

Caribbean scenes featuring people on a cruise ship, a fisherman who can't resist exaggerating the size of the marlin he caught, a marketplace, divers and people doing the limbo on a beach.

Puerto Rico scenes featuring the ocean and musicians performing in a town square.

The Bahamas scene featured a police officer trying to alternate traffic between sped-up footage of pedestrians and flamingos.  

Jamaica was represented by people walking up Dunn’s River Falls.

A projection of flamingos led to a jazz band in New Orleans and Mardi Gras revelers.  

The roar of a jet engine was heard and funky bass and guitar music was played as the Omnimover vehicles entered the Speed Room. High-speed footage included a plane taking off, people waterskiing and a dune buggy race.

The Mirror Room featured flight footage over mountains and deserts.  The projection of birds and the Eastern plane returned as a voice intoned:

“You DO have wings.
You CAN do all these things.
You CAN widen your world.
Eastern.  We'll be your wings.
Eastern.  The wings of man.”
(Note: Starting in the mid 1970s, Eastern began phasing in the "we have to earn our wings every day" slogan.  The last line was dropped from the ride audio sometime between the mid 1970s and early 1980s.)

If You Had Wings Lyrics

 Memorable music composed by Norman “Buddy” Baker and lyrics by X Atencio played throughout the ride.  Despite personally owning multiple audio and video copies of If You Had Wings, it is very hard to decipher audio due to the loud volume of the ride, the sound effects and the projector noise.  The following lyrics are based on a widely-circulated demo version of the ride.  While the verses are slightly different in some scenes such as in Mexico, the chorus is identical.  

If you had wings, you could do many things,
you could widen your world, if you had wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings.  
If you had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings.

You could fly to a plaza, where the people play,
at the Mexican fiesta, in the land of Olé. (Note: these lyrics are different in the ride)
If you had wings.
If you had  wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings.  
If you had wings, had wings.

You could fly to Bermuda, like a flying fish,
have a ball on a cruise ship, or catch fish if you wish.  
If you had wings.
If you had wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings.  
If you had wings, had wings.

Wanna buy a sombrero?  Made of real fine straw.  
or how ‘bout a nice handbag, for your pretty mama?
If you had wings.
If you had wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings.  
(Note:  The demo version of the song has the merchant singing "You can have cheap" instead of the standard chorus)

You could follow a tradewind, down to old San Juan,
And explore an old fortress, before traveling on.
If you had wings.
If you had wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings,  had wings, had wings.

You can flitter and flutter to the isle of springs,
to that emerald green garden, and do wonderful things.  
If you had wings.
If you had wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings.

You can fly with flamingos, to that old French town,
go where regal New Orleans wears a carnival crown.
If you had wings.
If you had wings.
If you had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings.

You DO Have Wings

 The exit of the ride contained an Eastern travel desk.  For many years you could get your very own pilot wings here.  Eastern produced the colorful poster seen at the top of this page.  It was a bit ironic that it showed the Tiki Birds since the Disneyland version of the show was still sponsored at this point by United Airlines!  Eastern also produced items like matchbook covers and "Fun Flight" bags for kids that had things like hand puppets, paper masks, puzzles and a book cover/park map.   Brochures like the one below touted personalized vacations.  Eastern also had a travel desk at the Contemporary Resort.

Walt Disney World Eastern Airlines brochure

Legacy of If You Had Wings

  Timekeeper made reference to the ride in his movie (although it may not have been intentional) when he told Jules Verne,  You can't fly.  If you had wings, I'd let you go."  Several Walt Disney World and Disneyland attractions borrowed technology that was first used in If You Had Wings. The Speed Room effect was used by Disneyland’s PeopleMover in 1977 for their SuperSpeed Tunnel.  The tunnel was modified in 1982 to become the Tron Game Grid.  World of Motion in Epcot also had three separate Speed Room effects.  El Rio Del Tiempo made extensive use of projections, including similar cliff diver and underwater effects.  Just like If You Had Wings, props were arranged around the projections to make them more realistic, as shown in the video below from the Walt Dated World You Tube channel.  The book shelves at the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen contain a book called If You Had Wings, You Could Fly.

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If You Could Fly

If You Could Fly entrance
 When Eastern stopped sponsoring the ride on June 1, 1987, the references to the airline and theme song were dropped.   The exterior was changed to feature the flying birds from the beginning of the ride instead of the Eastern logo, although the ride inside was basically the same .  A song with a melody vaguely like "Up, Up and Away" by the Fifth Dimension (but definitely not that song) and different lyrics then the original attraction was used instead.  The attraction was renamed If You Could Fly until it closed on January 3, 1989.  Delta Dreamflight  opened on June 26th of that year.  This was a totally different ride although travel was still the theme.  When Delta ceased sponsorship at the beginning of 1996, the ride was known as Take Flight until it closed on January 5, 1998.  The show building is currently used for Buzz Lighter's Space Ranger Spin and still uses the Omnimover track.

If You Had Wings Omnimover vehicles
(The two photos above courtesy of Brotherdave.)

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See ya real soon!