Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bob-A-Round Boats at Walt Disney World: Celebrating 40 Years of Walt Disney World History

I am obsessed with Walt Disney World ephemera. 

What's ephemera? Well, I'm glad you asked!

In most cases, ephemera is defined as transitory material (usually printed) that is not designed to be kept. Think of brochures, postcards, buttons and maps. Early Walt Disney World history is bursting with physical examples of how this term could be applied to include attractions, restaurants, lands and many other gone-but-not-forgotten Disneyana. Back in August 2008, I stumbled across a flyer at Vintage Disneyland Tickets and I was perplexed at what I saw.

What in the (Walt Disney) World is that round thing?

I had no idea what the round boat was. It wasn't in any of my souvenir guides nor could I find it in any of the PR material that I have. I was stumped! Besides, how do you do a Google search for round boat at Walt Disney World and not go insane?

I e-mailed a few of my friends and Foxxfur from Passport to Dreams was able to provide the answer. She told me to visit the pages at Widen Your World and Walt Dated World for the bob-a-round boats.

Alison, at Walt Dated World, had this to say:
Rub a Dub Dub. Three (or four) people in a tub. These bizarre-looking striped boats had what looked like a lightening rod on top of them. (Florida is home to a lot of lightening, you know!) They were only around a short time after Walt Disney World opened. Apparently the boats were often the victim of dead batteries, which prevented them from Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along.
--http://waltdatedworld.bravepages.com/id159.htm
And Mike, at Widen Your World:
Another aspect of the resort [Polynesian] that has seen much change is the range of watercraft made available to guests over the years. Gone are the days when as many as eight people piled into a 40-foot Polynesian War Canoe and took off across the Seven Seas Lagoon toward real islands. And before those craft sailed into the sunset, the circular Bob-A-Round boats (each with an independent stereo system!) had already long since been retired.
--http://www.omniluxe.net/wyw/poly.htm
Since then, I have seen the bob-a-round boats in other promotional material. Big Brian's WDW A History in Postcards lists the following image as 01110261 THE POLYNESIAN VILLAGE.
Early postcard of the Polynesian Village with a Bob-A-Round boat!
October 1971 Eyes & Ears
In this scan from the inaugural October, 1971 Eyes & Ears, you can see a list of all of the prices for various recreational watercraft. The Bob-A-Round is listed at $8.00 per hour. Not the cheapest, but still, a pretty expensive way to traverse the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Click on me!!!!
I found this photo on one of the large two-page spreads in The Story of Walt Disney World: Commemorative Edition. Seven boats are shown, with an additional one on the other side of the fold (my scanner wasn't quite large enough).

If you look closely at the scanned image, you can see that four of the seven Bob-A-Round boats are docked at the Magic Kingdom. They are the ones in the back that are grouped in pairs.When I studied this image, I wondered if they ever rented watercraft from the Magic Kingdom dock. Obviously, there hasn't been a structure near the water to act as a rental agency, nor is there a cast facility for refueling or recharging. In this case, I would make the assumption that the boats are there for show. This is probably a staged publicity photo. No real guests were harmed in the making of this shot!

I continue to be amazed at the myriad of unresearched and unknown details of Walt Disney World


October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts. A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.
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