Lakeland man with ties to original ‘Orange Bird’ hopes Disney can find lost photographs

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Roy Norris says he is a unique part of Walt Disney World’s history because he was just the right size.

“One of my teachers came to me and said ‘Roy, you’re a small guy,’” said Norris, 69, of Lakeland.

Courtesy: Roy Norris

At the time, he was 19 and was the same size as Orange Bird, a character developed by Disney for the opening of Magic Kingdom Park in partnership with the Florida Citrus Commission.

In 1971, central Florida was about to change forever with the opening of Walt Disney World.

“It was very exciting because before then, all anybody ever knew of was Disneyland in California. So wow, we’re getting a Disney World here,” Norris said.

He traveled the country as Orange Bird as an employee for Florida Citrus Commission, advocating for the state industry.

Half a century later, Norris still has a scrapbook from his year spent as Orange Bird.

But, he says, it is incomplete.

Before the park opened, he remembers attending a photoshoot inside Magic Kingdom.

“It was something like the Tiki Room or something,” he said. “There’s a real large artificial tree right outside. It looks real but it was an artificial man-made picture and I don’t know what happened to the pictures.”

Courtesy: Roy Norris

His memory is fitting because Orange Bird greeted families at Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland once the park was open to guests, according to the Disney Parks Blog.

The Florida Citrus Commission was the original sponsor for the Tiki Room, according to some reports.

The character remains a beloved part of the magic today, including in sought-after merchandise.

Norris assumed the photographs were lost forever until he saw on the news that Walt Disney World was celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“And I said, ‘Wait a minute, I was the Orange Bird 50 years ago. Wait a minute, I need to start checking into this,'” he said.

He has reached out to Walt Disney Company and the Florida Citrus Commission several times and has not heard back.

“It would be very interesting to check it out, talk to some of the people there, and kind of catch up on history a little bit but I don’t know who to contact,” he said.

8 On Your Side has reached out to both entities to try to connect Norris with his 50-year-old memories.

“To add it to my collection. I’ve got some very precious, very valuable in my heart, pictures of some very special people,” he said.

And maybe he could reunite with Orange Bird itself.

“That would be worth everything,” Norris said.

“Would it still fit?” asked 8 On Your Side’s Staci DaSilva.

“Yes! I can bet money on that. I weigh the same thing I did when I graduated high school in 1971,” he said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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