Thursday, September 5, 2013

If You Had Wings

For the last few days I have had this song, if you can call it that, stuck in my head:

If you had wings
You could do many things
You could widen your world
If you had wings

OK, so it's not Proust, or even Rod McKuen. It's the jingle that played in the ride called "If You Had Wings," at Disney World in Orlando, until that ride closed in the mid-1980s.

"If You Had Wings," against all probability, was my favorite Disney World ride. It wasn't about speed or thrills, like "Space Mountain," or humor and adventure, like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," and it didn't involve ghosts or giant squid or pirates.

Instead, it was about traveling the world, and it was relatively peaceful and relaxing. The lilting choral jingle, which absolutely embedded itself in the rider's inner ear, accompanied a slow trip through a dark tunnel where Mexican dancers twirled on a patio and bathing-suit clad tourists climbed a Caribbean waterfall. A Bahamian traffic cop guided pedestrians and flamingoes in opposing directions. Seagulls flew in a graceful, animated cluster across the dark blue sky.

The ride was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, and built the tail end of the era when jet travel was seen as exclusive and stylish. It fed into my strong desire to see the world. At this point in my conscious life I'd only been to Washington, D.C., to visit my grandparents. But as I've written before, I collected stamps, I was aware of the globe and I wanted to see it all.

I got to thinking about "If You Had Wings" the other day, and after some Internet research came across an entertaining blog post that described its history, as well as a video taken in 1985 (unfortunately very dark -- all that's visible are the illuminated projections within the ride's chambers, rather than the rooms themselves) and an audio clip of that infuriatingly addictive tune. (Not as infuriating as "It's a Small World," I'll grant you.) The blog mentions the ticket system at Disney World, which I remember, but I'd forgotten that "If You Had Wings" was free. I guess that makes sense, since it was basically a big commercial for Eastern.

Apparently there was even an Eastern reservation desk at the conclusion of the ride, in case watching those people traipse through a waterfall was so inspiring that a rider was compelled to drop a couple hundred clams right away. I don't remember this reservation desk -- maybe I ignored it, since I wasn't in a position to spend clams.

In high school, I remember making my girlfriend ride through "If You Had Wings" numerous times. She probably wanted to be on "Space Mountain" with everyone else our age.

Anyway, it was fun to track down some online history of this ride and see the photos. The space today is occupied by an undoubtedly more high-tech ride based on the "Toy Story" movie franchise. I'm sure it's far less relaxing.

(Photo: A couple in Hackney Wick, on Aug. 17. This has nothing to do with "If You Had Wings," but I don't have any photos of that attraction!)


Reya Mellicker said...

This is a beautiful post.

You do have wings, you know. You surely do.

Lynne said...

That photo is beautiful! I love how she has her head thrown back and tucked into his neck. They are in love for sure!

I don't remember that ride at Disney. I know I must have gone on it, but I can't remember it. Even the tune doesn't jog my memory. Now it's a Small Small World is going around inside my head and it's driving my crazy!! So thanks, Steve for that particular little worm!

Nancy said...

I've never been to Disney; now, having read your post, I wanna go. Even though the "Wings" ride is no longer there, I have a sudden urgency to experience some fantasy.

Ms. Moon said...

I remember that ride! Oh Lord. I suppose we'll have to take Owen and Gibson to Disney one of these years. Or maybe I'll just let his parents do that honor.
I am still missing Mr. Toad's Wild Ride which was my favorite. It was sort of clunky and crazy which is why I loved it. That and the fact that I adored The Wind In The Willows.

And that shot is perfect. Love it!

ellen abbott said...

I've only been to Disney World once but don't remember it. It was mid-80s so perhaps it had already closed.

Sharon said...

I am racking my brain trying to remember this one and it's just not coming back. I'll listen to the audio link when I get home this afternoon. Maybe that will jog my memory. Or, maybe I didn't visit this ride at all (which seems odd, I thought I visited them all). I know I was there twice in the late 80's but I'm not remembering this particular ride. However, the article you linked did bring back several other memories that I had forgotten about like the Enchanted Tiki Room and Circle-vision. I remember my parents being awe struck by the “Hall of Presidents”. And to this day I still refer to a particular event as "E" ride quality. Living in the west, I tended to visit Disneyland quite often and I have many, many fond memories of from there. One of my all-time favorite attractions was the Monsanto Home of the Future. I recently put a photo of it up on my travel blog. This is such a fun post, bringing back all kinds of pleasant memories. Thanks.

The Bug said...

I've only been to Disney once - probably 1978? I was in the 8th grade & my mom & I got stuck in the It's a Small World ride & that's all I really need to remember - ha!

LOVE the photo!!

Linda Sue said...

"If you had wings you could do anything", NO, you could not wear a nice fitted jacket for instance...Loved the freebies at Disneyland in Calif. They were SO corny!
That photo at the top is SPLENDID!

Anonymous said...

That is one great photo! Love it! And I've never been to Disney...maybe one day I'll save up and take my 3 grandsons. So wish that ride was there...I know I'd love it!

37paddington said...

I adore the posture of that couple. And I smiled at the thought of you choosing that ride instead of space mountain. And Rod McKuen, hello? I was moony over him at age 14. You made me remember. Haha.