Many families make the Fantasyland rides at Disneyland their first stop when they visit the park. This is largely in part because of how magical it is, and there are no Fastpass options offered. It is also one of the areas that is open during Magic Morning early entry on select days, so families love to get a head start on their day. But even with how many people enjoy the Fantasyland rides at Disneyland, the attractions hold many secrets. We hope enjoy learning them all!
1. On opening day on July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened with Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Alice in Wonderland was added on June 14, 1958 and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey opened May 25, 1983. These five attractions are called “dark rides” because it allows the park to use light, color, and sound to tell the Disney story and immerse guests into the experience, similar to being an actual part of a life-like movie. And each of these Fantasyland rides at Disneyland feature a whimsical connection to Disney films.
2. The dark rides were originally created to be viewed from the perspective of the story’s main character. When riding the attraction, park guests would see the ride from the perspective of the main character. The ride was designed for the guest to be Mr. Toad driving crazy through the streets of London, Peter Pan flying over Big Ben and Neverland, Snow White avoiding the trees in a journey to get away from the Wicked Queen. After several years, park Imagineers realized it could be a little confusing to guests, so they added the main characters into the story lines during a renovation in 1983. Next time you ride the dark rides, ride it from the main character’s perspective, it is a fun way to experience the rides as designed.
3. Peter Pan’s Flight is one of the most popular rides at Disneyland. The line to the attraction is always one of the longest, so step up early, use your fairy dust and fly a ship over London and Neverland.
4. Similar to other Disneyland engineering wonders, beginning at the Darling family’s house and flying over London, the flying ship is approximately 17 feet off the ground. Pay attention to the details. Look closely at the building blocks before taking your journey out of the window into the night’s sky. The blocks spell Disney! Look to your right – Peter Pan’s shadow appears as he shouts, “Come on! Here we go!”
5. Pay attention to the details of the models and effects below. Disney uses an engineering / design concept called forced perspective. The models become smaller which is designed to make you feel like you are flying higher and higher. Look for London’s famous landmarks at night. The lights make out Big Ben, the Tower Bridge and many other recognizable sites. As you leave London and set your course for “the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning,” you will see recognizable sites from Neverland, like Skull Rock and the Jolly Roger!
6. Forced perspective is also used on Sleeping Beauty Castle. You will notice that the “bricks” on the bottom of the castle are much larger than the top of the castle. It is designed to trick your eye to make the castle look much taller than it really is… The castle was designed by Herbie Ryman with the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany as inspiration. The Disneyland version reaches 77 feet high and that is measuring from the water up, but ask anyone that you know and they will most likely think it is much taller because of the magic of forced perspective.
7. Disneyland is the only place you can experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. “Toad” was originally in the Magic Kingdom as well, but was replaced in Disney World with Winnie the Pooh despite protests from Disney fans. While traveling through the queue line, look at the left eye of Mr. Toad’s statue. It’s a classic Hidden Mickey that is fun to find, but you have to be looking for it! Many people travel to Disneyland to experience this opening day classic.
8. Based upon Disney’s film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and the classic book, the Wind in the Willows, the attraction is the adventure of a drive in a 19th century motorcar that Mr. Toad takes “to nowhere in particular” speeding through Angus McBadger’s library, city streets, a pub, a dock fret with explosives, etc. The motorcar ultimately ends up on railroad tracks and hits a moving train! Pay attention to the buildings on the street, look closely in the windows for a silhouette of Sherlock Holmes. The ride is a tongue in cheek lesson on safe driving.
After the untimely demise of Mr. Toad, he meets a judge that sends him to a very warm place for his misdeeds. Luckily the devil judge points to the exit signifying redemption, but not so fast, a dragon jumps out, opens its mouth and it appears it will blow fire. But guests barely escape after the dragon chokes and coughs and guests escape back into the Happiest Place on Earth.
9. Hidden gems in Snow White's Scary Adventures make it a fan favorite. Look above the entrance to see the Evil Queen part the curtains and look out on the crowd below, depicting a scene in the classic movie. Also, the apple at the entrance of the attraction is a surprise hidden by the Evil Queen. Touch it to hear her cackle which surprises many guests.
10. After escaping the cackle of the obsessed with her beauty Evil Queen Grimhilde, visitors to the Queen’s castle find their way through dungeon passages. Guests happen by an evil spell book which reads, “One taste of the poisoned apple and the victim’s eyes will close forever in the sleeping death.” Listen for the Queen’s chilling words that say, “Soon I will be fairest in the land.”
11. Guests know that Disney magic can triumph over evil. After boarding a buggy named after one of the Seven Dwarfs, guests encounter the Evil Queen at her magic mirror. As she turns around, she is surprisingly the evil hag, offering her victims the apple. The spell is achieved with two models turning at the same time one behind glass that appears to be the magic mirror and the other near the guests. Simple, but effective!
Guests experience the Seven Dwarfs and then the ultimate demise of the Evil Queen ending with a story book page declaring that they lived happily ever after.
12. Jump on a caterpillar for a ride down the rabbit hole on Alice in Wonderland. The attraction’s design makes it appear that guests have shrunk to a tiny size… Have fun with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the other residents of Wonderland. But be careful of the Queen of Hearts as she turns all of the roses red. Notice that her army is marching by a mirror which appears that there are many guards working for the queen. The King announces “Rule 42: The Queen always wins!” Watch for the hedgehog doubling as a croquet ball and a flamingo as the club… It is a great way to celebrate your Very Merry Unbirthday, which, by the way, is every day but your birthday!
13. In the early days of Disneyland, guests would buy ticket books to ride the attractions. Each ride took a ticket and had its own ticket booth. The ticket booth for Alice in Wonderland was the mushroom that is out in front of the attraction. A few other ticket booths still exist and many of them are found at the Fantasyland rides at Disneyland. Look for ticket booths at Dumbo, Casey Jr., the lighthouse at the Storybook Land Canal Boats, the Train Depot on Main Street U.S.A. and the Main Street Cinema featuring Mickey Mouse cartoons. While at the theatre say "hi" to Tilly, the ticket taker who has been at the theatre for many years. She even has a cast member badge!
14. The Casey Jr. sign which once served as a ticket booth, greets guests as Casey chugs up the hill carrying guests around the Storybook Land area. The Storybook Land, best seen on the Storybook Land Canal Boats, was once referred to as “Lilliputian Land” in early Disney plans.
15. Experience a surprise smile from the Cheshire Cat. Near Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, you will find the Mad Hatter Hat Shop. Slip into the shop, try on a hat, look in the mirror and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland will surprise you with his venerable smile!
16. Transition from a puppet to a real boy or girl in Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. Upon entering, guests are entertained by Stromboli’s puppet show. Cast members report that the three puppets symbolize the past, present and future of Disneyland. Pinocchio represents the present, of course. The Pinocchio attraction once held the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theatre which was similar to the Main Street Cinema where guests could get a sneak peak of upcoming Disney attractions.
17. Just like the venerable movie, the Pinnochio ride teaches us that we should make good decisions and always tell the truth. The Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket help guide Pinocchio on his journey… The Blue Fairy's disappearance in the final scene of the attraction uses the same technology found in the Haunted Mansion with Pepper’s Ghost. The illusion uses a full size animatronic that is reflected on glass. The image seems to disappear when lighting fades.
18. Ride at the front of the parade on Walt Disney’s favorite carousel horse! Every horse on the King Arthur’s Carousel is special and has a unique name and story. Pick up the list from City Hall on Main Street, U.S.A.. Jingles, the horse with bells and jewels, was Walt and his wife Lillian’s favorite and has made special appearances in movies like Saving Mr. Banks. Julie Andrews still rides Jingles every time she visits the park. Check out the hidden nods to the original Mary Poppins and Disneyland's 50th Anniversary on his horse blanket.
19. Look for the weather vanes within Fantasyland that indicate the dark rides. The Tic Toc Croc weather vane looks over the entrance to Peter Pan and reminds us that time is always chasing us… if you are not careful it will catch you. Make sure that you make some great memories with your loved ones…
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Chris Dallin is a Disneyland fanatic. He travels to Disney parks several times a year and continues to find hidden gems, adventure, joy, and magic in the Happiest Place on Earth. Tune into future blogs for additional ways to experience the magic of Disney Parks.
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