For the second in the series we’ll be looking at the site of Mickey’s PhilharMagic and time traveling all the way to 1971 to see what has lived in this space over the ages. If you haven’t already read the history of Stitch’s Great Escape in part one of the series you can find it here. One housekeeping note: a lot of this is written from my memories. If you remember it differently please let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from everyone.
If you hopped into the Wayback Machine and set it between 1994 and 2002 you’d emerge to find The Legend of the Lion King. This was one of my favorite shows, and I was really sad to see it close. This was one of the last few attractions to actually open WITH the movie. Can you imagine a big Rapunzel show opening at the Magic Kingdom just weeks after the movie hit theaters? This used to be common for Disney, but it seems like nowadays the company sits back and makes sure it has a hit first. (And sometimes after a mega hit…we get bathrooms!) I was a little old to buy into it completely, but for my younger sisters The Legend of the Lion King seemed “real” and was a way to visit the most recent Disney story. The fun started when you entered the pre-show area where a live actor dressed as Rafiki introduced the story before you were ushered into the theater. Inside the theater was a show like nothing before or since at Disney. The story of The Lion King was told with projection screens, puppets, and effects. I could go on about how great it was but there are several videos on YouTube that do it more justice. Not that I don’t think Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a great show, but I’ll always think Lion King was better!
More than virtually any other attraction in the park, it was Fantasyland’s dark rides that set Disneyland apart from other parks. Before Disneyland, the typical dark ride would be something like the Tunnel of Love, where boats followed each other through a canal. Coats felt “the big improvement we made over what had been done before was the way we left people with a little two-minute experience within a certain story that they had known from our animated films. Now they got to see it in a more dimensional way, and these were interesting ways of doing it.” Walt wanted each ride to represent a different emotional experience. He wanted drama, humor, and beauty.
The process started with the source material, the animated films. The Imagineers used the original 4-by-8-inch storyboards and concept sketches. Claude Coats credits Ken Anderson with finding a way to make it work. Anderson drafted storyboards that highlighted key elements of the story but focused more on creating the right mood. Then Ken Anderson and Claude Coats designed the interior sets. Fortunately, both Anderson and Coats worked on the films and knew the material well. Once they finished, Bill Martin would make modifications to fit the shows inside the buildings.
Construction is nearing completion on Disneyland Park’s new Fantasy Faire, the princess meet & greet complex that is replacing the classic Carnation Plaza Gardens. The new area, which controversially extends Fantasyland’s theming into the central hub for the first time, officially opens to the public on March 12.
If you are an annual Passholder, you can get a sneak peek of this expansion on March 7, 8, 9. The preview events will be held between noon and 6pm on those three days, with Passholders limited to designated two-hour entry windows.
Do you love the Disney animated classic Peter Pan?
Would you like to spend a couple extra hours in Fantasyland this week?
If your answer to the following questions is “all of the above,” head over to Disneyland on Wednesday night (February 27, 2013) for the latest Limited Time Magic event. For one night only, Passholders can see a special screening of Peter Pan at the Main Street Opera House, in honor of the film’s recent Blu-ray release.
As an added bonus, select Fantasyland attractions will be open to participating Passholders for 2 additional hours past the park’s public 8pm closing time. Be warned, however, that my recent experience with extended Passholder hours at Disney California Adventure did not result in light crowds and short queues; in fact, it was exactly the opposite.
Film screening start at 11am on Wednesday. Passholders may register for the event in person at the Opera House beginning at 10am on the day of the event; online and advance registration is not offered. See here for details on the event direct from Disney.
The stage once used for swing dancing has been radically refurbished, with new surrounding facades giving the entire area to the side of Sleeping Beauty Castle a Fantasyland feel. Now known as “The Royal Theater,” the performance space will host a rotating pair of interactive shows.
Both productions feature Renaissance Faire-style actors (Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones) helping the audience act out the story of Beauty and the Beast or Tangled. These participatory shows sound suspiciously similar to the interactive Enchanted Tales With Belle attraction found at Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland in Florida.
Among Disneyland Park’s greatest assets is its overabundance of attractions. With over 45 named rides and shows — more than any other park in the Touring Plans database — it’s inevitable to find some duplication among Disneyland’s lineup.
The existence of several pairs of extremely similar experiences makes crafting an efficient touring plan a little more interesting. A prime example is the pairing of Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train. Both Fantasyland attractions date back to Disneyland’s earliest days, and traverse the same elaborately manicured real estate.
It stands to reason that one of the two should be expendible on an efficient itinerary. Indeed, we do not include either attraction in our basic adult-oriented one-day touring plan. But we do suggest the inculsion of one or the other on all our kid-focused and multi-day plans. The question is, which trip to take?
The short answer is that our critical rating in the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland is 2½ stars for Casey Jr., and 3 stars for Storybook Land. But not so fast — both rides have their adherents, for good reasons:
Like at the Jungle Cruise, the live narration of the canal boat drivers adds immensely to the experience, especially if you get a clever one.
The boats give a much better view of the amazingly detailed fairytale miniatures along the waterways.
Though its maximum capacity is lower, Storybook Land can move guests quicker than Casey Jr. does with only one train running.
Over 6 minutes of cruising time means this one of the longer rides at Disneyland, making it a great return on your wait time investment.
I personally give the nod to the Canal Boats, but I urge everyone on a relaxed vacation schedule to give both a try, especially if the wait is under 20 minutes. While neither ride ranks among Disneyland’s most popular attractions, I’ve personally had “magical” experiences on both.
During my last visit to Disneyland, my wife and I were in line for the Storybook Land Canal Boats shortly before closing time. I noticed that we were the only people in the queue, and mentioned to my wife that we might get a boat all to ourselves. Just then a large family got in line behind us, and we assumed we would share our trip with them. But a cast member must have overheard us, because they held the group back and let us board alone for a private tour.
On an earlier occasion, we managed to board Casey Jr. just as the fireworks began. We not only got to experience the ride, but also had an exquisite view of the explosions seemingly surrounding us. The best part was getting an eyeful of the acrobatic Tinker Bell and Dumbo used in the Believe seasonal sky show.
On my first ever sailing through Storybook Land, I lucked out by boarding the boat of skipper “Mary Ann.” She split my sides with her sotto voce sunnily snarky side-comments, which I captured on the following video. I still see her regularly operating rides in Fantasyland, and never fail to notice her infectious enthusiasm.
For comparison purposes, here is a video I shot of a daytime ride on Casey Jr. Circus Train.
Which of these two rides do you include on your personal Disneyland touring itinerary? Neither or both? Tell me in the comments below!
On Monday May 1st 2006, the quick service restaurant formerly known as Lumiere’s will reopen as the “Village Fry Shoppe.” The new location will serve McDonalds’ french fries and hot dogs.
The location had been closed for several years, and is a typical quick service counter setup with several windows. It is located next to Mrs. Pott’s Cupboard which serves ice cream and the Seven Dwarves’ Mine gift shop. The adjacent seating area flanks Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Pooh’s Playful Spot.