Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ghosts of the New York World's Fair in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

Very little remains of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. Nearly 50 years after this mass celebration of 20th century technology, cultural diversity and peaceful understanding took over Flushing Meadows in New York City, all that's left are mostly shells. The Unisphere, a 12-story Earth's globe surrounded by shooting fountains--the centerpiece of the Fair--is the rare exception, although its fountains are turned on sporadically at best anymore. Nearby are three rusted observation towers overlooking a crumbling arena of steel and concrete. In its heyday, this was the New York State Pavilion with its futuristic "Sky-Streak" elevators and the "Tent of Tomorrow" housing a huge floor map of New York State made of terrazzo. Unlike most of the surrounding attractions, there were plans to keep this pavilion open long after the fair closed, to find some use for it in the heart of New York City's fourth-largest public park, but they never materialized. And so, for decades, public officials have been handing off the responsibility of what to do with the New York State Pavilion to the next set of public officials and no one has really done anything. Private interests have occasionally found use for it. There were brief periods when the venue was used as a skating rink or a concert arena, but little else. Today, the pavilion is fenced off due to safety concerns and to discourage vandals.

Matthew Silva at what remains of
the New York State Pavilion
The New York World's Fair was the birthplace of some of Walt Disney's greatest attractions. It's a Small World opened here. So did the Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Dinosaurs from Ford's Magic Skyway would be transplanted to Disneyland to make up the Primeval World. These were among the most popular of the more than 150 attractions and pavilions at the fair certainly because of their cutting-edge audio-animatronic technology, but also because, well, they were just Disney and Walt always knew how to put on a good show.

As a Disney fan, it was impossible for me to wander around Flushing Meadows and not think about the great successes Walt had here. That's why its important for me to try to preserve the few physical remnants left over from the New York World's Fair. Matthew Silva, a filmmaker and native New Yorker, wants to see the New York State Pavilion saved simply because he grew up in the shadow of the observation towers and doesn't want to lose them. They're iconic symbols of the great city and state of New York and it would be a tragedy to see them torn down, or worse, to continue to slowly deteriorate. In The Mouse Castle Lounge this week, I talk to Matthew about his work to save the pavilion and to produce a documentary about its history. It's a fascinating conversation with a young man who has a passion for preservation and a great appreciation for history.

Also in the Lounge, I wrap up my conversation with Tim O'Day, who has been sharing his wonderful stories about his 40-year association with the Walt Disney Company. This week, Tim talks about the craziness that ensued hosting the world premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest at Disneyland, especially when Johnny Depp decided to show up late.

It's preservation and pirates in this week's episode of The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

For more information about Matthew and what you can do to help save the New York State Pavilion, please visit:

The Mouse Castle Lounge can also be heard on iTunes and Stitcher.


  1. Great job Tim- I reall enjoyed "The Mouse Castle" and will be tuning in again. You've captured the attention of another who loves all things Disney.
    Thank You

    PS If you haven't already done so- please join my facbook page dedicated to the 1964-65 New York Worlds Fair. Disney's influence on the World's Fair lives on as do so many other great memories - shared by and for all.

  2. Thanks, David. I appreciate your kind comments.