Disney History: Fantasyland Then & Now

Magic Kingdom is the heart and soul of the Walt Disney World resort and no land captures the essence of Magic Kingdom like Fantasyland. While many of the other lands were inspired by episodes of Walt Disney's Disneyland, which last aired in 1958, Fantasyland is a tribute to the enduring animated features that children still grow up on today. We live in a world where an 85-year-old woman and her 7-year-old great-granddaughter might have both been the same age when they saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the first time. It's a timeless land that celebrates some of the most iconic stories that Disney has ever told.

Fantasyland Then & NowFantasyland Then & Now

A walk though Fantasyland in 1971 would have revealed ten classic attractions, only five of which still remain operational today - It's a Small World, Peter Pan's Flight, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, and Dumbo. Of course each of these attractions has received some sort of update over the past 44 years, but they core experience has remained largely unchanged. It's a Small World has remained largely unchanged except for routine maintenance and updating. Peter Pan's Flight was recently the recipient of a new interactive queue, but the core ride exists much as it did in 1971. Originally known as the Liberty Carousel when it was built in 1917, the carousel was completely refurbished for park opening and called Cinderella's Golden Carrousel until 2010 when it was renamed Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. The Mad Tea Party has been "plussed" over the years with the most important addition being a canopy to protect riders from the hot Florida sun. Without question, Dumbo has changed more than any other opening day ride that remains in Fantasyland. The original 10 elephants was expanded to 16 in 1993, but capacity was still not sufficient to meet guest demand, so as part of the New Fantasyland expansion in 2012, Dumbo was moved to its new location and a second Dumbo was added along with an interactive queue play area to make the wait for Dumbo shorter and more pleasant.

Peter Pans Flight Opened in 1971Peter Pans Flight Opened in 1971

Four of those opening day attractions were reimagined into completely new experiences and one was scrapped altogether. The first to go was the Mickey Mouse Review in 1980. The attraction remained shuttered until 1987 when Magic Journeys was relocated from EPCOT. In 1994, Legend of the Lion King opened in this space and remained until 2003 when Mickey's Philharmagic began its run. The next attraction to close was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The popular ride was a victim of rising costs, slow loading, and low hourly capacity and it closed for good in 1994. Today that location is home to the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. For those who feel nostalgic, two of the old submarines are part of the snorkeling cove at Castaway Cay. In perhaps the most controversial closure in Walt Disney World history, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was taken offline in 1998 preparation for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The following year, the Skyway from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland closed and was later dismantled. The most recently closure in Fantasyland was Snow White's (Scary) Adventures, which was shuttered to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall as part of the New Fantasyland expansion.

The Cottage Replica Welcomes Guests To The Enchanted ForestThe Cottage Replica Welcomes Guests To The Enchanted Forest

In a testament to Fantasyland's popularity, it was the first land to ever annex an adjacent land for an expansion. Mickey's Toontown Fair ceased to exist in 2011 to make way for the Storybook Circus area of New Fantasyland that housed the new Dumbo attraction and a re-themed Barnstomer. This area was joined with the Enchanted Forrest that includes Journey Under the Sea and Enchanted Tales with Belle to round out the New Fantasyland Expansion. In addition to the new attractions, New Fantasyland has incorporated the Beast's castle and Rapunzel's tower to provide even more fairy tale references to this land.

Rapunzel's Tangled Rest AreaRapunzel's Tangled Rest Area

For me, the greatest addition to Fantasyland since opening day is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the greatest loss is Snow White's Scary Adventures. My favorite classic attraction that sill remains is Peter Pan's Flight. What are your Fantasyland favorites? What do you miss the most?

A big thanks goes out to Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of her time in Walt Disney World with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's trip, you can find her sharing her adventures on our member forum.

Kristen K. wrote on Tue, 03/10/2015 - 13:53:

Kristen K.'s picture

Fantasyland has certainly gone through it's share of changes. I'm pretty happy with the expansion and how the current configuration has come together, I think now it's time to turn that focus of regrowth to other Parks.

Great job Holly!

alicemouse wrote on Tue, 03/10/2015 - 20:20:

alicemouse's picture

I couldn't agree more, Kristen! I think Hollywood Studios is going to be amazing in about 5 years and I'm really hoping to hear some announcements soon about EPCOT's Future World. There are some attractions in FW that are long overdue for a major update!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. If you have a Gravatar account associated with the e-mail address you provide, it will be used to display your avatar.

More information about formatting options