FROM: Disney P.I. Published As Uncovered

Old Fantasyland - History of WDW Magic Kingdom

Kevin steps into the Disney PI role with an opening column about the history of old Fantasyland. Welcome Kevin.



One of the signature attractions to open on October 1, 1971 at the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland was "It's a Small World".  Orlando's version, however, would differ from Disneyland's in Anaheim in that the loading area would be indoors. The show building was constructed at ground level, with two large openings for the canal system and a separate covered porch building attached to the front.  Florida's version also featured an updated mural whose design was heavily influenced by the late 60s and early 70s.


samll world


The Magic Kingdom's version of Small World features two important variations on Disneyland's version of the ride.  First, each different show scene is set in a separate room, as opposed to one single room with scenery.  Also, each room is flooded - boats follow an underwater guide instead of riding in a canal.  By 2004 Small World was showing its age. The sound system was in bad shape, and lighting fixtures couldn't be replaced when expired as they weren't being made anymore.

In the summer of 2004 “Its a Small World” closed for a major overhaul.  The attraction was stripped back to a bare shell and rebuilt virtually from scratch. On March 20, 2005 it reopened with a new queue layout, mural based on the California version, lights, sound system, refreshed animatronics and a newly restored original soundtrack.


its a small world


Another opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom was the “Skyway to Tomorrowland” and “Skyway to Fantasyland”.  What made the Walt Disney World version special was its 'corner' - the route had a midway station.  The station was purely to turn the cables through 55 degrees to continue the journey. The Skyway closed on November 10, 1999 - five years exactly after Disneyland's closed.


One of the opening day E-ticket attraction was “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”.  Whilst not submarines, the attraction did  feature 12 boats with underwater windows that ran on rails. The ride was extremely popular, and was based on the Disneyland original.  In Florida, however, the attraction was themed to the film of the same name and Captain Nemo himself was the guide. 

The attraction closed on September 4, 1994 for 'refurbishment', but was never to reopen. 


The subs were left inside the lagoon for several months.  The station became a meet and greet area with the lagoon simply a backdrop for Fantasyland.


20000 leagues under the sea


Then in April 2004, props started to be removed from the rear of the lagoon.  In May the lagoon was hidden by a wall and by July the water was drained and demolition began.  The subs were scrapped, most were moved from Walt Disney World's 'boneyard' and buried in a landfill.  It was no secret the ride was slow to load and unload,  looked very dated, and could close quickly.  If one of the diesel-powered subs broke down, the entire ride was evacuated and closed.  Time had caught up with what was Walt Disney World's most ambitious original attraction.


Traditionally Fantasyland has been the home of the 'dark rides', so-called since they use ultraviolet light to illuminate special paint in an otherwise dark room. Three dark rides opened on October 1, 1971 and two still exist to this day. One however, doesn't.


mr toad's wild ride


"Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride" debuted when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and quickly developed a loyal fan following.  The fact that Disney chose to build this ride was seen as a surprise to some people, given the fact that the characters involved were not "classic" characters and largely unknown to many. The ride was based, of course, on the 1949 film "The Wind in the Willows" which had been released 22 years earlier and did not attain the popularity of other Disney films.  Originally opening this ride back at Disneyland made sense as the film was only 6 years old at the time, but then putting this ride in the new Magic Kingdom was a little puzzling.  The theme of this ride could have gone in many other different directions.  However, this ride became a fan favorite in Fantasyland and proved to be a very entertaining attraction.  The ride provided two different experiences with separate track layouts.  Track A included scenes such as the the Trophy Room and Gypsy Camp, which were not  available on Track B.  Track B provided unique scenes such as the Barn and Prison scenes. This was a unique experience in a Disney dark ride, as riding twice could offer two different rides.  The ride itself began with a winding queue similar to Snow White and Peter Pan. 


Once through the queue, motor cars emerged from two train tunnels and the ride into Toad Hall began.  It was not a technologically advanced attraction but it did have some great scenery and characters.  "Mr Toads Wild Ride" closed on September 7, 1998 and the building was gutted to make way for the new "Adventures of Winnie the Pooh".


More: DISNEY, P.I.

Stuff Not to Skip