October 1st, 1971 – The Big Day!
Walt Disney World officially opened on October 1st, 1971. At the time there was only one theme park, The Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom of 1971 was a lot different then the Magic Kingdom of 2014. Today let’s take a look at the original Magic Kingdom attractions and their fate over the years.
Original Walt Disney World Attractions
- Walt Disney World Railroad-The Walt Disney Railroad will take you a big loop all the way around the Magic Kingdom, if you let it. Great ride for those who love steam trains. Interesting diversion for those who do not. Still operating.
- Swiss Family Tree House-Compile a list of everyone’s favorite attractions and this one will probably not be on it. Still it is worth doing once even if it is only so you can say you did it. This is a walk through attraction similar to the tree house from the Disney classic, The Swiss Family Robinson. Still operating.
- Jungle Cruise-Get on board for a tour of three of the great rivers of the world. The audio-animatronics are great, the jokes are corny. It’s still entertaining guests today although it has had some updates through the years. Last year there was a special Christmas edition of the Jungle Cruise called the Jingle Cruise. Captains are still telling bad jokes to this day.
- Tropical Serenade-An audio-animatronic extravaganza featuring birds, tiki statues and weather. Sound familiar? It should it became the Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management in 1998, The 1998 refurbishments changed the story some and added Iago (form Aladdin) and Zazu (from The Lion King.) On January 12 , 2011 there was a small fire the severely damaged the Iago audio-animatronic. On August 15, 2011 the show was re-opened as the Enchanted Tiki Room and returned to its original format. The birds are still singing today.
- The Country Bear Jamboree– When they say Country Bears they mean COUNTRY! These bears make the Beverly Hillbillies look like Parisian sophisticates. Still the show is good with various audio-animatronic bears belting out often silly songs. The bears are still singing today, if you can call it that.
- Diamond Horseshoe Revue-When it originally opened you could grab a snack and watch the entertainment. The entertainment was pure old west and included can-can dancers. Over the years the Diamond Horse had several name and format changes. Eventually it was more about the food and less about the entertainment. Unfortunately the building is shuttered most of the time now. Sad to see what was once a sought after attraction closed down. (Rumor has it the cost for staging the show far exceeded the sales of food. That and the limited capacity led to the demise of this one.)
- Hall of Presidents-See each of the presidents live and in person…almost. When audio-animatronics were a new thing this was once a very popular attraction. Now that we are used to them the crowds don’t flock to the Hall. But it is still open.
- Haunted Mansion-Jump on your doom buggy and join the ghost host for a trip through the haunted mansion. Just don’t become the one more! Entertaining guests since day one and still doing a good job today with a few modifications.
- Mike Fink Keel Boats-The first boats to travel the Rivers of America were the Mike Fink Keel Boats. These double decker boats traveled the rivers taking guests on a journey around Tom Sawyer Island (which did not open until 1973.) There was an identical attraction at Disneyland. In 1997 one of the boats at Disneyland capsized. This led to a temporary closure at Disneyland though the Magic Kingdom boats sailed on. The Mike Fink Keel boats made their last trip at the Magic Kingdom in 2001.
- The Mad Tea Party-Have tea with the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, kind of. Actually you ride in the cups which spin around the center of the attraction. Guests can increase the spin of their personal tea cup. This one is still thrilling guests today (and making few stomachs turn. Grumpy cannot do this one.)
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant-Not high tech maybe but it is high demand. Climb aboard Dumbo and soar above Fantasyland (but not too high.) Guests can control Dumbo’s altitude. This attraction is not only still running it is so popular they created a second Dumbo spinner, turned the line into an indoor play area and adopted a pager like system to let you know when it’s your turn to ride.
- Snow White’s Adventures-This Walt Disney World original was a ride though of the movie of Snow White. The original version did not feature Snow White at all and the Dwarfs only made a cameo. The evil queen, however, showed up seven times. It was updated in 1994 to make it a little more child friendly. On May 31st, 2012 it was shut down. The space is now the Fairytale Hall and is only a meet and greet for Disney princesses. There is a little good news though, several of the dwarf animatronics and the vultures were re-purposed for the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train.
- Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel-Though it is a simple ride it was an is still popular. The ride has had a few updates and a name change. It is now the Prince Charming Regal Carousel. Trivia: The carousel was actually built in 1917 and was part of Olympic Park in New Jersey.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-A dark ride featuring elements from The Wind and the Willows section of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Guests boarded replica early 1900’s automobiles and took a ride through the story. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride closed on September 7, 1998, a very unpopular move with Magic Kingdom fans. It was replaced with the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There are still a few tributes to the ride at the Magic Kingdom, most notably the statue of Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery at the Haunted Mansion.
- The Mickey Mouse Revue-This show was all audio-animatronics. The show featured Mickey Mouse as the conductor and various Disney characters as members of the orchestra. Short scenes from different Disney movies were also recreated. Unfortunately it closed on September 14, 1980 to re-open as Mickey’s Philharmagic, a totally new show. The audio-animatronics lived on, however. The entire show was moved to Tokyo Disney where it was again an opening day attraction. It ran from April 15, 1983 and closed on May 25, 2009 to make way for Mickey’s Philharmagic, again.
- it’s a small world-Lively little audio-animatronic children sing a song that will give you nightmares! Or at least be stuck in your head for a long time! The children represent nations and cultures from around the world and often sing in their native language. The song is still being embedded into your memory today.
- The Skyway to Tomorrowland– Guests would board a gondola and take the easy (and scenic) route to Tomorrowland. Closed on November 9th, 1999. The boarding station was converted to the Tangled theme restrooms.
- Grand Prix Raceway-Even smaller children could drive on this course. Each car is on a track and not bumping the track can be a challenge. The name has changed to Tomorrowland Speedway but the ride is the same.
- The Skyway to Fantasyland-Need to get to Fantasyland but don’t want to walk? This, the other half of the Skyway to Tomorrowland, eliminated the walking and let you ride above the Magic Kingdom. Like its companion in Fantasyland this one also closed on November 9th, 1999. The loading station was demolished and nothing has been built in its place.
Almost Opening Day Attractions
These attractions were not quite ready on opening day but did open in October of 1971.
- Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat- Named for retired Admiral Joe Fowler who was instrumental in the opening of the Magic Kingdom this ride opened October 2, 1971. This big paddle wheel boat would take guests around Tom Sawyer Island (which was not open yet) on a peaceful cruise of the Rivers of America. A second boat, the Richard F. Irvine, was added in 1975. In 1980 the Admiral Joe Fowler was damaged during refurbishment. Disney decided to river boats on the Rivers of America were too many and the Admiral was retired. The name of the attraction has changed to the Liberty Square Riverboat and the Richard F. Irvine has been renamed the Liberty Belle but the attraction is still open. In honor of the Admiral, one of the ferry boats that brings guests from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom has been renamed the Admiral Joe Fowler.
- Peter Pan’s Flight – Since October 3, 1971 guests have been able to board a small two person boat that flies over some of the most famous scenes from the Disney classic. People are still watching Peter and Wendy’s adventures today and the ride is still very popular.
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – On October 14, 1971 guests were given the opportunity to join Captain Nemo on a voyage under the sea. Guests boarded submarines and experienced some of the adventures from the film, including an attack by a giant squid. The submarines surfaced for the last time September 5, 1994. The closure had been unannounced and at first was called a refurbishment. The closure was made permanent in 1996. The lagoon was filled in 2004 and became Pooh’s Playful Spot. Pooh’s Playful Spot was itself closed and the land it occupied became the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train.
Sad To See Them Go?
While many of the original attractions have closed it is surprising how many are still in operation. It is also encouraging to realize how empty some of the Magic Kingdom was in 1971. After all Tomorrowland only had two attractions and one of them was designed to get you out of Tomorrowland. This gives Grumpy hope when he looks at parks like Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. They have so much potential if Disney will just expand them like they did the Magic Kingdom.
What are your thoughts? What do you miss most? Leave a comment below and share with your friends if you enjoyed this article.