When Walt Disney World opened on October 1st, 1971, Eastern Airlines was promoting the park and their role as the official airline of Walt Disney World. This synergy between the two companies later led to the sponsorship of the Magic Kingdom attraction “If You Had Wings” which had a prominent place in Tomorrowland and allowed guests at Walt Disney World to preview the destinations that Eastern flew to.
For 15 years, Eastern Airlines was a prominent name that was side by side with Walt Disney World. Advertisements in print and media had Mickey Mouse and the Eastern logo working harmoniously to promote both companies in one act. How would you get to Walt Disney World? Most would fly on an Eastern plane.
The good reputation of the Disney name when linked with Eastern helped the airline corner the market on exclusive travel to the mega tourist destination in Central Florida.
From the early 1970s until the end of the partnership, Eastern was in lockstep with Walt Disney World in promoting the resort in their media campaigns. From print to television, Eastern and Disney incited curiosity and wonder with their advertisements.
So, fasten your safety belts readers, and secure your tray tables as I bring you on a trip through some of Eastern airlines’ Disney ads during the hay day of their partnership.
November 1973 – National Geographic
A two page add detailing a family’s recent trip to Walt Disney World. The family describes how they watched Mickey lead a parade, what it was like meeting Goofy, being awed by the technology of the Hall of Presidents and talking with a real blacksmith at Fort Wilderness. Mickey and Minnie and Cinderella Castle highlight the add with their visual draw, and at the close of the advertisement, readers are told that this summer “you can afford to take your family someplace different” courtesy of Eastern Airlines. The bottom of the ad has one of the elephants from the Jungle Cruise playing in the water with ‘Eastern: The Wings of Man’ right beside the playful pachyderm.
November 1976 – National Geographic
An eight-page ad highlighting all things Eastern Airlines and the many exciting destinations they flew to. While the descriptors for the other destinations have bland pictures that don’t show you much of the locale, the Walt Disney World section showcases a large color photograph of a young boy with Goofy in front of Cinderella Castle. Readers learn that if you booked your Walt Disney World vacation with Eastern, you could receive an exclusive Eastern Airlines ticket book for the Magic Kingdom attractions.
February 1977 – National Geographic
The same boy who met Goofy in the November 1976 National Geographic ad, shows up again in this ad. With the tagline of ‘We’ve got your sunshine’ Eastern Airlines is promoting their relationship to Walt Disney World and how affordable it is to book a Walt Disney World vacation through Eastern. You could enjoy Walt Disney World for the cost of $68-$208 as the advertisement says.
April 1979 – National Geographic
Rather than focusing on pictures from Walt Disney World, this ad gave readers a look at an Eastern Airlines plane, with the plane crew standing on the boarding steps, alongside a plethora of Disney characters. From Br’er Bear and Captain Hook to Mickey and Minnie at the top of the steps with the pilots, the image readers are meant to see is that when you fly on an Eastern Airlines plane it’s like you are flying with the Disney characters.
While National Geographic had many print ads to catch your eye, television was another source of revenue and required a different approach to the multimedia market.
Television Spot #1
Watch as people pass through the terminal to board an Eastern Airlines flight. Onboard, Cinderella is your flight attendant singing her famous song ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ and characters like the Cheshire Cat are in the overhead compartment. Viewers are made to think that Eastern and Walt Disney World are one in the same. The magic of a Walt Disney World trip was going to start when you boarded an Eastern Airlines flight.
Television Spot #2
Eastern appealed to viewers with how flying on their planes brought you from the reality of home to the magic of the Magic Kingdom. In this commercial, a young girl is running through the forest encountering an assortment of Disney characters. After meeting Peter Pan, she asks if he knows the way to the Magic Kingdom. Pan, of course, knows the way, but asks her if she can fly, which she can’t. Cue Eastern Airlines announcer who tells the young girl and audiences that you can fly to a magic kingdom in Walt Disney World in Florida on Eastern Airlines. The girl who was sad and lost in the forest is happy, thanks to Eastern Airlines, a company that believes that dreams can come true.
I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane. While the relationship between Eastern Airlines and Walt Disney World was lucrative providing benefits to both companies, like many business partnerships, it came to an end. In 1987, Eastern Airlines and Walt Disney World parted ways, leaving the Eastern sponsored attraction ‘If You Had Wings’ still in place but with all Eastern mentions erased. For a brief tenure in the 90’s Delta became the official airline of Walt Disney World but that ended too. Now Walt Disney World has no official airline – it doesn’t need one. Today, travelers don’t fly based on airline name, they go for the best deal, and no one really books through a travel agent now.
For Disney fans who may have some National Geographic magazines from the 1970’s and 80’s, scan through and see if you can find some of these unique advertisements by Eastern Airlines. These one-of-a-kind media prints give Disney fans a look at the early days of Walt Disney World and are a must for collectors.