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Thursday
Jun212012

New Fantasyland 1983

Have you ever wondered where Skull Rock and the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship used to be in Disneyland? Did you know Dumbo once flew on the far west side of Fantasyland? And that the Carrousel wasn’t always where it is now? We look at the many changes made during the creation of 1983’s “New Fantasyland”.

We’ve created the above map to help easily compare early Disneyland Fantasyland with today’s version that came about in 1983. In pink you’ll notice just how crowded things were behind the castle. Below that you'll see a photograph of today's Fantasyland with a blue sketch overlay of the original locations of various attractions and buildings.

Photo credit: Jerry and Lorraine Kotler

Huge growth in the early 1980s

The Disney parks saw HUGE growth in the early 80s. Walt Disney World was getting EPCOT Center. Tokyo Disneyland was being built. “New Fantasyland” was Disneyland’s big project. Not long before this, the first two Big Thunder Mountains came about. My earliest memories come from this time. It was EXCITING. Everything made was extremely impressive.

Why all the changes to Fantasyland?

The land was never quite what Walt Disney wanted it to be. With limited time and money the original Fantasyland was built with the idea that it would later be updated with a more “fleshed-out” decor. Facades were created inexpensively. They were designed to look like medieval traveling tournament tents. the story behind the area explains that rides were “brought in” to the castle courtyard for the “temporary festivities”. 

The Storybook Look

It’s often assumed that no European “storybook” facades existed in Fantasyland until 1983 but there were a few. The shops immediately behind the castle, the Skyway station, Matterhorn’s queue, and the miniature buildings in Storybook Land all featured this charming architecture. It is predicted that the Storybook Land architecture would have been the inspiration for Walt’s revisions of Fantasyland had he revised the land.


An Operational Challenge

There was an operational challenge to be addressed. Outdoor rides were placed very closely to the walls of the indoor rides. Narrow walkways created constant pedestrian congestion. The solution? Rip up all the concrete and move rides around.


King Arthur Carrousel

The carrousel was located right between the entrances to Snow White and Peter Pan. It was moved back quite a distance in order to open the funnel of traffic coming from and going to the castle. The move also allowed for larger, more elaborate facades for Show White and Peter Pan. Prior to 1983 no landscaping existed around the carrousel nor was it propped up on a concrete platform.

Peter Pan’s Flight

A London-inspired exterior with a large clock tower was added. 24 new animatronic characters were installed.


Snow White’s Adventures (Renamed Snow White’s Scary Adventures in 1983)

Snow White herself didn’t appear in the pre-1983 ride (other than for short test periods in the 70s). Riders were to experience her adventures from her point of view. Most riders didn’t understand this and just wanted to see Snow White. She was included in the new, longer ride. Show scenes were updated and special effects were added. Outside in the new facade the Queen figure who opens closes curtains was introduced.


Pinocchio’s Daring Journey

What? Pinocchio wasn’t always there? Pinocchio’s Daring Journey was the headliner new dark ride of the expansion. Was it Disney’s first Pinocchio ride? Nope. Shortly before it’s Disneyland debut, Pinocchio opened in Tokyo Disneyland. What was there before Disneyland’s Pinocchio? The space was previously occupied by a theater.

Mickey Mouse Club Theater (Renamed Fantasyland Theatre in 1964)

The theater showed classic Disney cartoons back to back.

Photo credits: (Left) Jerrod Maruyama, (Right) Jerry and Lorraine Kotler 

Dumbo Flying Elephants (Renamed Dumbo the Flying Elephant)

Originally located near the Skyway entrance where the outdoor patio of the Village Haus Restaurant is today. Originally the elephants were to be pink. This was to help preserve the fact that there’s only one Dumbo. Much like there’s only one Mickey. But Walt at some point decided that everyone should get to ride the real Dumbo instead of a pink elephant from Dumbo’s drunken nightmare.

Photo sent by David Blakeslee

And get this. Early Dumbo ears were HINGED!! They were mechanized to flap up and down as the Dumbos flew. This didn't work so well so later vehicles didn't have hinges.


Both 1955 and 1983 versions hosted 10 elephants. A new spinner with 16 elephants was installed in 1990 after a few minor accidents occurred. This new build was intended for Euro Disneyland. A duplicate was created for Euro Disneyland in time for its 1992 opening. Fun fact: All Magic Kingdom-style parks today have a Dumbo spinner. All but Tokyo have 16 elephants. Tokyo still has 10.

For New Fantasyland Dumbo was moved to what used to be a small lagoon where a pirate ship stood for over 25 years.

Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship and Restaurant (Renamed Captain Hook’s Galley in 1969)

Tuna sandwiches, tuna burgers, tuna pies, and even tuna salad in a little boat were served aboard the wooden ship. This ship belonging to Captain Hook is arguably the most interesting setting of any quick service food counter anywhere. 

After ordering you could sit at one of a few tables on the ship or eat under umbrellas just north of the ship.

The simple lagoon was enhanced with the addition of plant life and Skull Rock in 1960. Guest would exit the dining area on a path that led under the Skull Rock rock work. The ship was renamed when Chicken of the Sea ended its sponsorship in 1969. 

Photo sent by David Blakeslee

The magnificent ship met its fate earlier than planned during the 1983 expansion. They say it was to be moved near today’s Storybook Land queue but upon removal the thing fell apart. Speculations have surfaced in recent years that they could have moved it successfully if they had really wanted to.

An urban legend I ignorantly grew up believing claims that Steven Spielberg purchased the ship to become One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship in Spielberg’s 1985 film The Goonies. This is simply not possible.

Skull Rock

Added in 1960, Skull Rock featured a waterfall (or several little waterfalls) and its eyes glowed green at night. It was based on Skull Rock in Disney’s 1953 animated film Peter Pan. It was often photographed from above by guests riding in Skyway buckets.

Photo credit: Jerry and Lorraine Kotler

Today rock work and a waterfall stand where the rear portion of Skull Rock was. Do some of the original pieces remain? Probably. The plumbing perhaps?


Skyway to Tomorrowland

The Skyway changed its vehicle style from a round cylinder look to a more boxy look in 1965. The biggest change the Skyway saw in 1983 was a whole new set of views below.


You can still see the old Skyway tower hidden up in the trees.


Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Toad’s track and interior were removed. The track was made longer. A few new scenes were added. Part of the new queue featured and outdoor garden. The exterior was built to look like Toad Hall from Disney’s 1949 animated film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.


Alice in Wonderland

The Alice dark ride was not a 1955 original. It opened in 1958. It was the only Fantasyland dark ride built after Disneyland opened and before New Fantasyland in 1983.

Mad Tea Party

The “tea cups” as they are most commonly referred to were originally located where King Arthur Carrousel is today. They were moved closer to Alice in Wonderland which of course makes sense, both being based on the same film. A tented snack bar stood near its new location where The Mad Hatter hat shop stands today. Tables and chairs covered the area now occupied by Mad Tea Party. Each version of the ride has hosted three groups of six spinning tea cups.


Photo sent by Eric Chu


Next time you are strolling through Fantasyland be sure to compare what was then with what is now! Your friends will be oh so impressed.

 

Related posts:

Disneyland 1955 Model Close-ups
Disneyland in 1955
Not Having Fun at Disneyland
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63 [Part 2]


Friday
Feb172012

Rhine River Cruise Mysteries

Plans for a boat ride called Rhine River Cruise in EPCOT Center’s Germany Pavilion were shelved sometime shortly after the park opened in 1982. Few details about the ride have ever surfaced. Let’s dive in and see what we can find.


What we know.

"The future River Ride promises to be as enjoyable as it is informative. An early concept has guests boarding a "cruise boat" for a simulated ride down the Rhine and other rivers, the trip affording a visual impression in miniature of the cultural heritage of Germany's past and highlights of its present. Among the detailed models envision are scenes in the Black Forest, the Oktoberfest, Heidelberg, the industrial Ruhr Valley... the possibilities are limited only by the planners' imaginations." –"Walt Disney's EPCOT Center" by Richard Beard

According to the Walt Disney Company's 1976 annual report, the Rhine River Cruise was to be "... a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers– the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks will also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral."

Other accounts claim that the ride would have also feature the country’s more modern achievements much like Norway’s Maelstrom boat ride includes that country’s more recent industrial efforts. These most likely would have stood in the Ruhr Valley portion of the ride.


How much of the ride was built?

For years I was under the understanding that the show building for the river ride was built. It’s widely mentioned online and in at least one book that the the full show building was built and still stands today.

As it turns out, this is false. Or at least partially false. But how can this be? I’ve walked through the show building a number of times. A piece of the show building, attached to the rest of the pavilion, was built and still stands today. But the majority of the show building was never constructed. You’ll notice on our map above that the load area and the unload area are all that could have fit in the existing building.

It is often pointed out that the large castle-like building behind the clock tower is the Rhine River Cruise show building. The tallest, most prominent castle architecture you see to the left is, however, the Biergarten restaurant building. Shorter castle architecture to the right is the queue/load building.

Claims have been made that trenches were built into the foundation of these parts of the building. If true, they’ve since been filled.

Was the rest of the show building built then torn down? It was not. Let’s look at these EPCOT Center construction photos. We see that the rest of the show building was never built. (Additional World Showcase construction photos here.)

Now:


What remains today?

In the early 80’s large wooden doors stood at what was to be the entrance to the Rhine River Cruise queue. They were later covered with a wall and this mural. 

Photo from fan of the blog, Varsenik Wilson.

Photo from fan of the blog, Todd Shirley.

Photo from fan of the blog, Varsenik Wilson.

I am guessing the doors were removed and the mural went in within the first five years. It could have went in much earlier. The inside of the Germany Pavilion archways tend to show up very dark in old photos and video footage. We know by 1987 (at the latest) the doors were gone and the mural was up. This is based on a souvenir book published in 1987 with a clear view of the mural.

Were the wooden doors placed right where the mural is today? Were there additional doors in the archway? Was the whole foyer area west of the Biergarten entrance blocked off? We see from this early early photo (most likely from a pre-opening preview day) that a wooden door or wall appears. It’s difficult to determine if its under the archway itself or further back against the wall.

My guess: This wooden door/wall was up against the archway. Let’s compare it to the left archway in the same photo It appears that nothing as far back as the back wall would be visible in this photo.


Why would the “wooden door” matter?

It was evidence of the unbuilt attraction visible to guests. Could concept art or some sort of “coming soon” signage have appeared on or near the door? If so, such a sign most likely would have been seen by guests for a very short time. The company stopped mentioning the Rhine River Cruise in1982 at some point. Perhaps before a single guest entered EPCOT Centers’ gates.

Why would a door blocking traffic through the archway be important? Could this foyer area have been designed to incorporate the first Rhine River Cruise scenery? Blueprints don’t indicate a separation between the Rhine River side and Biergarten side of the foyer but could a separation have been planned? A queue/load area like the one in this concept art might require some of the foyer real-estate.


Starboard-facing passengers.

It is my conclusion that passengers aboard the boats were to sit facing out the starboard (right) side of the boats. This is based on the layout of the water flume and what we can see in the above artwork. The water loop does not appear to accommodate show scenery on both sides of the water.

If passengers faced one direction, all show scenes would appear directly in front of the passengers and a dark wall would stand behind them. This increases visibly, show designers ensure that their audience sees what they intend them to see, and space is saved. This is much like the Disneyland Railroad benches facing right, toward the inside of the park.

Here we see a rendering of the load area and a boat much wider than they were planned to really be. Isn't the atmosphere is oh so nice?

 
An exit with a view.

Blueprints show an area between the unload are and the exit called “Viewing Area”. This box-shaped area faces the Biergarten stage. Today this area is used for buffet service. I reckon guests leaving the ride would have been able to step off the exit path onto a porch for a view of the restaurant and its live entertainment. The smells of German food might have enticed them to dine at the pavilion. Unlike in the Mexico Pavilion, boat passenger and restaurant guests would not have had a great view of what the others were doing. This viewing area would have at least connected the two in a small way.


Added bonus.

Does it not look like there's a little piece of a boat in the archway of this Germany Pavilion logo?

 

Other info needed.

If you have other information about the Rhine River Cruise plans, please let us know.


Special thanks to:

Foxxfur from Passport to Dreams.
Michael Crawford from Progress City, U.S.A
Hoot Gibson from Mesa Verde Times
Mike Lee from Widen Your World 
Epcot Explorium
Epcot Encyclopedia
Varsenik Wilson and Todd Shirley for the mural photos.
Various printed resources from The Walt Disney Company.

 

Related posts:

EPCOT Construction from the Air
THEN AND NOW: Epcot World Showcase [Part 1]
Mural-Removin' Season at Disney
EPCOT Center Graphics
Disneyland Meets EPCOT Center
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Imaaaaaagination
Carolwood Pacific and Other Backyard Railroads
Frito Kid Mysteries Continue


Wednesday
Feb012012

Imaaaaaagination

Let’s take a look at Figment and long-lost Dreamfinder at their original EPCOT Center home.

We’ve recreated the track layout of the original Journey Into Imagination and compared it to the layout of the current attraction. You’ll notice it was originally much longer. And wait... Is the current load are on top of what used to be that grand turn-table show scene?? Hmm. For an overview of the Journey Into Imagination ride visit our friends at LOST EPCOT.


Photos

The following photos were submitted to us as part of our recent Photo Hunt (unless stated otherwise).

The beautiful, shiny, (and clean) glass pyramids. Notice the wonderful plant life. It’s as if it’s spilling into the pavilion from The Land next door. This photo is from Ryan R.

Shapes! EPCOT Center Future World was a wonderland of interesting shapes. The upward flowing waterfall is so imaginative. The next two photos are from Brett of WDW Fan Boys.

Nice matching socks, guys.

Dreamfinder and Figment

They were such a big hit together. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in the meetings where they decided to get rid of them. 

Karate Kid, is that you? Look at those shirts. A Future World t-shirt? Fantastic.

Figment topiary.

These next two photos were from a different photo hunt. In preparation for a certain Epcot celebration Cast Members submitted old photos. These are from Gregory. Has there ever been such a unique meet-and-greet? Didn’t the duo seem so lifelike?

Leap Frog Fountains

As a kid I was MESMERIZED by these. I couldn’t believe water could act in such a way. I believe this was second thing I told my friends in California after returning from my first EPCOT Center trip. The very first thing was "we got to ride the ride inside the big ball from the commercials".

The next four photos are from Shaun Ortolano.

I love the lamp posts in the next photo. And the coloring in the photo is super pretty. This is from David of Futureprobe.

Dreamcatcher

As a kid I never knew there were five of these vehicles. In fact there were five identical Dreamcatcher scenes altogether. Each set of ride vehicles attached itself to a large turn table with one fifth of the table and one of the five show scenes visible. This way riders could view the 2+ minute scene without backing up ride vehicles behind them. It was a brilliant thing.

While working at Epcot I would occasionally find my way to the backside of the old turn table. It was clear the thing was welded in place once it was no longer used (starting in 1998). It was pointed out to me that the table slowly “screwed itself into the ground over the years”. I wish I had photos. I imagine the whole mechanism would have to be completely thrown out if they ever wanted to resurrect this scene again.

Thank you Katherine A. for this great close-up shot of the Dreamcatcher.

And Shaun Ortolano for this one.

You can read my little story of how I obtained a piece of the Dreamcatcher blimp here.

Shaun also sent in this beauty. The use of white set work and colored lights in the original attraction was so fresh and fanciful.

Merchandise

Here Figment appears in a gift shop display in the great CentoriumAnyone else miss the Centorium?? As a kid that was the ultimate in theme park gift shops in my opinion. And figment had a great presence there. Photos from Shaun.

 

Related posts:

Surviving Pieces of Journey Into Imagination
EPCOT Construction from the Air
EPCOT Center Construction Photos: Future World
Disneyland Meets EPCOT Center
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
HORIZONS the way you wish you knew it.
THEN AND NOW: Epcot Future World [Part 1]
Daredevil Circus Spectacular