Monday, October 12, 2015

A Return to Old Fantasyland - Part I

By Kevin Faux

Fantasyland brings the tales gathered by the Brothers Grimm to life through the gracefulness of European charm. With the embodiment of childhood fantasy, the show elements allow guests the opportunity to enter the cinematic world of the Disney classics. A more history based story line brings guests out of hometown America and into the charm and gallantry of medieval Europe. Many classic attractions have come and gone over the years, but will always remain in the hearts of Disney fans the world over. Let's return to old Fantasyland and explore those attractions in today's new article by Kevin Faux...

One of the signature attractions to open on October 1, 1971 was “It’s A Small World.” Orlando's version however would differ from 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 was attached to the front.

Florida also had an updated mural – heavily influenced by the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Two important variations on Disneyland's version of the ride is that each show scene is in a separate room as opposed to one single room with scenery and in each room, boats follow an underwater guide instead of riding in a canal.

By 2004 the attraction was showing its age. The sound system was in bad shape and lighting fixtures couldn’t be replaced when expired, they weren’t made anymore. In the summer of 2004 “It’s A Small World” closed for a major overhaul. The ride was stripped back to a bare shell and rebuilt virtually from scratch and reopened with a new queue layout, mural based on the Californian version, new lights, sound system, refreshed animatronics, and a newly restored original soundtrack on March 20, 2005.

Below you'll find the original WDW BGM of "It's a Small World" queue area which was heard from 1971-2004 (You can listen to this song any time in the Disney Avenue Music Player. It is track number 168 in the playlist above. Remember, the Music Player is only available on a desktop computer):

Skyway to Tomorrowland and Skyway to Fantasyland was another 1971 opening day attraction. What made the WDW 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.

Let's travel back in time and take a trip from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland by air. We'll see the unique turn in the middle where one set of cables hands your car off to another, and you can see the waterway from the old 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and so much more. Seeing this again makes you wonder why in the world they ever removed this beloved attraction in the first place...

Another opening day E ticket was 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Made to look like actual submarines, there were 12 boats with underwater windows that ran on rails. The ride was extremely popular. This was also a ride based on a Disneyland original. In Florida however the attraction was themed to the film of the same name and Captain Nemo himself was our guide.

Have a look at this wonderful 1980s home footage of the attraction and remember why it was such a classic...

Sadly, 20000 Leagues Under The Sea closed September 4, 1994 for ‘refurbishment’ but would never reopen. The boats were left in the lagoon for several months and then they were removed. The lagoon was to stand empty for nearly a decade. The station became a meet and greet area with the lagoon simply as a backdrop for Fantasyland. In April 2004 props started to be removed. That May the lagoon was hidden by a wall and by July the water was drained and demolition began.

The boats were scrapped. Most of them were moved from Walt Disney World's boneyard and buried in a landfill while a couple were relocated to Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, for a period of time...

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 boats broke down the entire ride was evacuated and closed. Time had caught up with what was Walt Disney World's most ambitious original attraction. Regardless, the attraction was loved by thousands and offered guests the chance to see exotic coral and experience the calmness of being underwater.

Old Fantasyland of Walt Disney World's yesteryear was filled with classic delights. Some thankfully remain while others live in classic attraction heaven. Still, it's fun to reminisce on what was and recall some of the things that made and continue to make Walt Disney World the vacation kingdom of the world.

Stay tuned for Part II of A Return to Old Fantasyland coming soon...


Kevin Faux is a Canadian Disney fan all the way from Nova Scotia. Kevin has been on countless trips to Walt Disney World and loves to collect Disney music. He looks forward to sharing his love of Walt Disney World history with the readers of Disney Avenue.

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