By the mid 1990's the Disney Company had come a long way from the under valued company of the early 1980's it seemed that everything the company touched turned to gold, movies, theme parks, the burgeoning profits of video sales which had been a totally new source of cash for the company in the 1980's, even the Disney Channel which had taken many years to incubate and grow was beginning to bear its own fruits. Now the 1990's was here it had been pronounced the Disney decade and with all the successful changes that had been made at the Walt Disney World resort that might seem like an under statement rather than an exaggeration coined by a marketing team. With all this success came some leeway to experiment, not that the team in charge had been afraid to try new things before this point, on the contrary Disney had pushed ahead with LOTS of new business, but now, embolden by success, perhaps they might go a bit farther afield from typical business models that had been tried before. One such attempt to try a new business model seemed particularly near and dear to Michael Eisners heart The Disney Institute was a whole new concept for Walt Disney World a "participatory vacation experience" that were a sort of classroom to learn in interactive programs in many fields; Gardening, Sports, Performing Arts, Design, in all there were over "60 interactive programs" where could learn all kinds of skills from topiary, to cooking, Sports skills, Radio and TV production, or even animation. The resorts of the Disney Village (Vacation Villas, Fairway Villas, Treehouse Villas, and Club Lake Villas) were included as rooms for the new resort and other buildings, like the Walt Disney World Conference Center, were refurbrished as well as new construction to Complete the Disney Institutes "campus", most of the materials I have seen about the Institute seem to shy away from the word "education" but clearly the folks that this most appealed to were probably looking for just that. It was a relatively short lived experiment opening in February of 1996, and it ceased offering programs for individuals but instead focused on groups and corporate clients by summer of 2000, on February 11, 2002 it's lasts guests checked out, making way for most of the structures to be torn down to make way for another business that had started out as an experiment...but which had instead taken off like a wildfire Disney's Vacation Club, Disney's version of a time share vacation had proved very popular with guests and seemed a natural for an area of the resort which had long struggled to find a "permanent" use. (sources Disney A to Z 2nd ed.)
Above and Below: I love it when two images on cards can be compared side by side to expose differences the card above is obviously earlier than the card below the look at the mint green building on the right in the card above and below, do you see what's missing? Yep, The Disney Institute logo can clearly be seen on the card below but it's nowhere to be found in the card above, and while it is neat that you can see Spaceship Earth in the distance on the card above I suspect that the real reason that picture was taken from such a low angle may have been to hide the construction equipment behind the already pre-existing Villas along the water. In fact, if you look at the large version of the image above try to look in the windows of the large yellow building in the image above there seems to be a lot of "orange" in those windows, perhaps those windows aren't even IN yet. Both of these cards are continental size (4 x 6). Oh and one more thing about the dirty corners of the card below, I bought this one off Ebay and the seller told me he found it under a drawer in a piece of furniture he bought from one of those places that deals specifically in Disney Surplus.
Above: this Modern-Sized (5 x 7) card shows that the institute did work hard on trying to get the message out about what they really were all about the emblems all around the border of the card are representative of various programs the institute offered, and the slogan "make your own magic" even seems to capture the spirit of the resort as well.