Posts Tagged ‘Magic Kingdom’
by Daisy Lauren
on October 24, 2013
Today we are exploring the details of Tomorrowland! I will say in advance that I find this to be the most disappointing land in Magic Kingdom for theming. (Now seems like a good time to remind everyone that my opinions are just that and not endorsed by Touring Plans! ) It seems like it’s stuck somewhere between Pixar and a future from ten years ago, but despite that there are still some little details to share, so let’s get started with this very cool sign that marks the entrance to the land when entering from the hub!
As you cross this bridge you will also notice some random but fun futuristic facades.
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by Daisy Lauren
on October 8, 2013
Today we wrap up the details of Fantasyland. If you’re just joining us now, you might want to check out the first two installments:
As you might recall, we were just coming up on Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid when we left off. The front of this ride has been photographed so much, but it is worth showing one more time. I think this might be my favorite detail in all of New Fantasyland!
Isn’t it pretty? Less often seen is the actual attraction sign that is mounted beneath the Ariel facade. (Take a closer look at the characters in each corner!)
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by Morgan Crutchfield
on October 6, 2013
As a result of construction at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Walt Disney World Resort Monorail will be operating on a limited schedule beginning October 6, 2013. On that day and for what is projected to be two weeks after, the resort monorail will stop running at 11 a.m. daily and will remain down until 6 p.m. each day. Guests will be re-routed to resort buses and boats in order to get to Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the other monorail resorts.
For those of you traveling on these alternate methods of transportation, be sure to remember that Disney bus and boat rules require that you fold and store strollers, walkers, and other rolling devices.
The Express Monorail will continue to run normally between the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and Magic Kingdom during this period.
by Morgan Crutchfield
on October 4, 2013
As October rolls into Central Florida, the Halloween season (because after all, it is a season here) is in full swing. And while there’s never a bad time to visit the Magic Kingdom, the changes taking place lately have made it particularly exciting. I started my evening at the Polynesian to take a few pictures and get a look at the new runDisney running path markers that are now in place at the Poly, Grand Floridian, Art of Animation, and Epcot Resorts. The signs give you route maps and distances, most helpful if you’re training for, say, the Tower of Terror 10-miler?
With construction slated to begin soon on the newly announced Disney Vacation Club villas at the Poly, I wanted to get some photos around the resort just in case there were changes to my favorite sights. Depth testing has already begun out in the lagoon and construction walls are up near the beach at Sunset Pointe.
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by Erin Foster
on November 17, 2011
Walt Disney World is a perfect vacation spot for families with young children. And, nature being what it is, people with young children often find themselves making more young children. This means that at any given time there are lots and lots of pregnant women at the Disney parks. Here are some tips for coping if one of them is you:
- Check in with your doctor. Yep, I mean it. Your doctor is the best source of information about travel safety for your unique health situation. She will probably giggle when you call to ask whether a trip to Disney is OK, but this is most definitely a better-safe-than-sorry situation.
- Be prepared for medical contingencies. Make sure to always have your doctor’s contact information, your health insurance card, and information about any medications that you’re taking, on your person, even in the parks. While the likelihood of your needing any of this is minimal, in the event of an emergency, you want make sure that your access to care goes as smoothly as possible. While you’re in diligence mode, spend a moment with the map of each park to note the location of the first aid center. If you’re experiencing discomfort or have a question, the wonderful cast members there can provide assistance or recommend sources of more comprehensive care.
The first aid center is your friend
- Keep cool. It’s no secret that Florida can be hot, hot, hot. With an already stressed body, overheating can lead to numerous problems for both mother and child. To keep your core tempertaure down, be sure to stay hydrated. In addition to the pricey water bottles for sale in the parks, you are welcome to bring you own water with you. The counter service restaurants will also give you free cups of ice water; just ask. You may want to consider other methods of cooling as well. Try carrying an umbrella or parasol as your own source of shade. Those misting fans are a great way to cool off. You can also place a commercial cool pack or even a wet washcloth on your neck. Try to make the entertainment focus of your trip indoor shows and attractions where you can sit in air-conditioned comfort. And even if you’re not a swimmer, you may want to consider taking a dip in your resort’s pool. In addition to being a great way to cool off, the weightlessness effect of the water can take a lot of pressure off your joints.
- Note restroom locations. If you’re staying hydrated, then you’re going to need to make some fairly frequent pitstops. Keep a park map handy and note the locations of restrooms. While oppressively long lines are uncommon in Disney bathrooms, you may encounter one or two during your trip. If you’re in a must-go situation, don’t be afraid to ask to cut to the front of the line. In my experience, many of the women in line ahead of you will be moms who completely understand.
- Plan rest times. TouringPlans almost always recommends that guests take a mid-day break from the parks. This goes double for pregnant women. Go back to your hotel. Put your feet up or take a nap. Even plan for a total relaxation day in the middle of your trip. Please.
Look for warning notices on attraction signs
- Heed the warnings. While most attractions at Walt Disney World are perfectly safe for any guest, there are a few that come with health warnings for pregnant women. Most of these are the obvious thrill rides, but some “tamer” rides also have warning notices. For example, the Kilimanjaro Safari at the Animal Kingdom has advisories against pregnant women riding because of the bumpy road surfaces and jarring movements of the jeep. This may seem silly, but why take chances that you don’t need to? Get informed by checking the signage at each ride.
- Pamper yourself. This is your vacation. Consider stopping by the Saratoga Springs Spa for an Expectant Mother Massage. Or hire a sitter for your older child and lounge with your hubby on the beach at the Polynesian while watching the fireworks. Sure it’s a splurge, but you’re worth it.
- Plan your lodging with comfort in mind. While you may be fine on a double bed at the Pop under most circumstances, this may be the trip in which you’ll be most happy if you upgrade to nicer digs. Those king-sized beds at the Contemporary truly are more comfortable. Or consider booking a one or two bedroom DVC villa. These are equipped with large jacuzzi-style tubs – absolute heaven when you’re exhausted. No matter where you stay, consider asking for a centrally located room, near the restaurants and transportation. The less walking you have to do at the hotel, the more energy you’ll have in the parks.
Keep cool in the pool
- Plan your food intake. Many pregnant women experience changes in their taste preferences. Take this into consideration when you’re planning your dining reservations. Perhaps your usual love of spicy Mexican food should be indulged on a future trip. Also, because of your temporarily restricted stomach capacity, you may be more comfortable having smaller meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than attempting to beat-the-buffet. This may influence your decision about whether to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. You should also remember that you are permitted to bring your own food with you into the parks (avoiding glass containers). Even if you don’t normally bring your own snacks with you, it may make sense to keep a supply of healthy, known palatables with you at all times.
- Beware the skunk. Just as many pregnant women have food sensitivities, they also may have scent sensitivities. Walt Disney World happens to be a very “smelly” place. From the perfume counters at Epcot’s France pavilion, to the faux chili dogs burped by Stitch in his Great Escape, and the aroma of skunk in the Journey to Imagination attraction, scents are used to enhance many park experiences. If you are in a phase where odors make you queasy, take extra care to become informed about which attractions have added aromas.
- Be aware of how much you’re walking. During my own pregnant trip to Walt Disney World, I was five months along with twins. I was in good health and well acquainted with the parks. On the first day of the trip, I toured at our usual pace – skipping from one end of the Magic Kingdom to the other to minimize wait times. At the end of the day, I felt like my knees and hips had become unhinged. I had forgotten that ligament-loosening hormones and extra weight completely changed the amount of stress regular activities would have on my body. Start slow and modify both your pace and distance traveled to accommodate your new shape. If you start to feel like walking is too much for you, wheelchairs are available for rental at the front of each park. There’s no shame in rest when you’re touring for two.
There are healthy snacks available in the parks
- Bring a book. You’ll be skipping the thrill rides on this trip, but that doesn’t mean your family members have to. Let them go ahead and conquer the Yeti on Expedition Everest while you take the opportunity to relax on a shady bench with a cool drink. Your family will feel much less guilty about leaving you behind for a bit if they know that Jodi Picoult is keeping you company.
So ladies – What have you done to make your pregnant park excursions more manageable? And gents – Do you have any advice for making the trip with a pregnant partner run smoothly. Let us know in the comments below.
by AJ Wolfe
on October 18, 2010
The Magic Kingdom‘s Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, like other Main Street businesses, is themed from bottom to very tippy top — even for Halloween! But while you’ll see spooky faces carved into other Main Street jack-o-lanterns, at the Ice Cream Parlor you’ll see only sweet sights.
From a kiddie cone…
to a triple-scoop waffle cone…
to their famous Plaza Ice Cream Sundae…
I think we all know why we suddenly have a craving for ice cream!
Sweet treats and Happy Halloween!
by JL Knopp
on September 10, 2010
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) is Disney’s answer to the American trick-or-treat tradition that takes place every fall. For the span of a month and a half (September 14 – November 1) Disney closes the Magic Kingdom relatively early on select days and transforms in the evening for a Halloween celebration. This party requires the attendees to purchase an entirely separate ticket specifically for the event. Regular park tickets and Annual Passes cannot be used for admittance. Guests are welcome to masquerade in their costume of choice, collect candy, and participate in special happenings around the park for the last five hours of the day (7pm to 12am).
The tradition of past years is to allow MNSSHP ticket holders to enter the Magic Kingdom at four o’ clock in the late afternoon even though regular park guests are still actively running around. Upon presenting a ticket or purchasing it on the designated night, MNSSHP guests are given a wristband that distinguishes them from the average park guest. When the party officially starts, guests without a wristband are no longer allowed to enter attractions, and as the night progresses they are prohibited from even entering the various lands and asked to exit entirely.
MNSSHP begins at seven o’clock. At that time, Cast Members set up candy distribution spots throughout the entire park. These locations are designated on the MNSSHP park maps, but in past years these spots have been placed in every land with the highest concentration of them being along a path (labeled Alice and Mad Hatter’s Treat Party) that begins in Mickey’s Toontown Fair, runs behind the Tomorrowland Speedway, and exits in Tomorrowland beside Space Mountain. The candy that is passed out is essentially the same mixture at every location, so it isn’t necessary to visit every spot for the purpose of variety; however the more stations you visit, the more candy you accumulate. Feel free to revisit stations throughout the night as well to gather a particularly large stash of sweets.
Much like during regular park hours, guests have the opportunity to meet with Disney characters throughout the park in specified locations until 11:30pm. The primary difference during MNSSHP is that the characters are either dressed in Halloween garb or their personality is villainous in nature. It may be appropriate to prepare younger children for intimidating meetings with cruel step-mothers and harsh sorcerers.
If Disney continues its tradition, The Pirates League will remain open until 8pm so that guests with reservations can be transformed into pirates. The price of the packages start at about $30 (with the ability to add accessories and costumes a la carte style). The league can accommodate all genders and ages.
Character Dance Parties take place during the evening with Rockettower Plaza Stage being a primary location to interact and dance with characters like Stitch. Also, a Halloween stage show titled “Disney’s Villains Mix and Mingle” happens almost hourly in front of the castle with the villains roaming throughout the audience after each show (7:45pm, 9pm, 10:05pm, and 11:15pm being last year’s timetable).
“Happy HallowWishes” is the name of the fireworks show that is sandwiched in between two appearances of the Halloween-themed “Boo To You” parade (with previous times being 8:15pm and 10:30pm for the parade and 9:30pm for the fireworks). Both of these events are the cornerstones of the entire evening.
“Happy HalloWishes” can be viewed from any location in the Magic Kingdom, but the best views to be had are from Main Street USA, facing the castle. The castle turns a whole spectrum of blues, green, oranges, and purples as fireworks are synchronized to a medley of spooky and villainous tunes.
The “Boo To You” parade is an eclectic mixture of fluffy elements such as floats that emulate Halloween on a farm with clucking chickens, pumpkins, cowboys, and Country Bears as well as more ghoulish traits such as grave digging dancers and skeletons. The Disney characters are featured in Halloween attire, and there are special appearances from not-so-oft seen villains like the Headless Horseman, Pain & Panic, and personalities from the Haunted Mansion.
The expense of the event varies, depending on the date you choose to attend as well as whether you purchase your tickets prior to that particular evening. With the exception of the Friday night and Halloween weekend parties, guests have the option of purchasing tickets at an Advanced Sales Price ($53.95 + tax for people over the age of nine /$47.95 + tax for children 3-9 years of age) or at a Same Day Sales Price ($59.95 + tax for people over the age of nine / $53.95 + tax for children 3-9 years of age). The Friday night and Halloween weekend parties only sell at the Same Day Sales Price. The exception to these prices are the evenings of October 29 and 31 when tickets are sold at Premium Pricing ($64.95 + tax for people over the age of nine / $58.95 + tax for children 3-9 years of age). Disney Vacation Club members trump them all, though, with a tax included discount ticket price on select nights ($53.20 for people over the age of nine / $46.81 for children 3-9 years of age).
Most of the Magic Kingdom’s attractions remain open for MNSSHP. A number of counter service restaurants and snack kiosks continue to host hungry guests as well. No table service restaurants are expected to be open once the party officially begins, but considering that guests are only given five hours in the park, most would not want to spend a full hour or two of that time seated in a restaurant and missing the very events that they paid a premium price to experience.
Disney’s Photopass photographers will be stationed throughout the park, especially in locations where the Halloweeen style of the castle can be used as a backdrop. Another spot of particular interest is the stroller parking area in Fantasyland that formerly was the location of the Skyway to Tomorrowland. In the past, Cinderella’s Coach has been parked there amongst pumpkins for a unique photo opportunity.
What are the specific dates and times of MNSSHP in 2010?
For 2010, the time frame is 7pm-12am on each of the following evenings:
September 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30
October 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, 31
What is the price of the event?
Advanced Sales Price: $53.95 + tax for 10 & up / $47.95 + tax for 3-9
Same Day Sales Price: $59.95 + tax for 10 & up / $53.95 + tax for 3-9
Premium Sales Price: $64.95 + tax for 10 & up / $48.95 + tax for 3-9
Disney Vacation Club Discount Price: $53.20 (tax included) for 10 & up / $46.81 (tax included) for 3-9
*The Advanced Sales Price is not available for October 8, 22, 28, 29, or 31
*Tickets for October 29 and 31 are only available at the Premium Sales Price
*The Disney Vacation Club Discount Price is not available for September 25, October 8, 22, 28, 29, 31, or November 1
Are there any costume restrictions or policies?
There are a few rules that Disney asks its guests to adhere to concerning costuming. First, for safety reasons Disney does not permit costumes that obstruct vision or drag on the ground. Eyes must be visible at all times. Costumes may not contain sharp or pointed objects that could strike another guest. Because the event is child-friendly, guests are asked to not wear offensive or violent disguises. And, finally, guests that are dressed as Disney Characters are not permitted to pose for pictures or sign autographs for other guests to accommodate Disney licensing issues.
Is MNSSHP merchandise available?
MNSSHP merchandise will be available. In previous years, The Merchant of Venus store in Tomorrowland has been the headquarters for Disney’s Halloween merchandise, but there should also be some merchandise available in the Emporium on Main Street USA as well as Pirates Bazaar in Adventureland.
Do I need to bring my own container for collecting candy?
It isn’t necessary to bring a bag or container for collecting candy. Disney does provide guests with nice plastic bags for this purpose if they arrive empty-handed.
Which attractions and food services are expected to be open?
While Disney reserves the right to change their plans at a moment’s notice, their pattern of the past years has been such:
The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm; Tomorrowland Transit Authority; Stitch’s Great Escape; Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor; Tomorrowland Speedway; Astro Orbiter; Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin; Splash Mountain; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; Haunted Mansion; The Hall of Presidents; Swiss Family Treehouse; Pirates of the Caribbean; The Magic Carpets of Aladdin; Peter Pan’s Flight; Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel; Dumbo the Flying Elephant; Mickey’s PhilharMagic; “it’s a small world”; Snow White’s Scary Adventures; The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; Mad Tea Party
Open Food Spots
Casey’s Corner; Aloha Isle; Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe; Golden Oak Outpost; Westward Ho; Frontierland Turkey Leg; Sleepy Hollow Pizza Cart; Mrs. Potts Cupboard; Friar’s Nook; Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe; The Lunching Pad at Rockettower Plaza; Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies
Is the event worth the extra expense?
If your visit only includes a day or two at Disney, then the extra ticket is worthwhile in order to extend your hours in the park. If you are really set on seeing the Magic Kingdom in full force for Halloween, then the expense is also worthwhile since it can’t be experienced this way at any other time. However, if your vacation extends for more than a few days and the Halloween aspect of the Magic Kingdom doesn’t intrigue you, then bypass the cost of the extra ticket. In fact, it would probably be best to bypass the park entirely on the designated MNSSHP days due to the crowds. Instead, choose a separate day for your visit to the Magic Kingdom, especially if it is not scheduled for Extra Magic Hours. Since most people will have been there the previous day and late into the night, it is likely those same people will sleep in late and visit a different park to explore the following day, making your day in the Magic Kingdom less crowded, more efficient, and more pleasant while still enjoying some of Disney’s fall decor.
by Michael Owen
on May 31, 2010
Longer stays allow for more relaxed touring of MK
Travelling to Walt Disney World from the United Kingdom requires a mammoth 8-9 hour flight, which means many, including myself, chose to spend at least 14 nights in Orlando to make the long trip worth it.
The question is should visitors, both international and domestic, follow a touring plan when on such a long trip or is it better to take a more relaxed approach to visiting the many attractions at WDW?
The first thing to consider would be what you want to get out of your vacation. Are you totally focused on Walt Disney World or do you want to visit some of the other attractions in the area such as Universal Orlando, Sea World and Busch Gardens?
Many guests coming from international destinations like to get the most out of their vacation, which means they chose to visit all of the eight major theme parks listed. Eight parks in 14 days is no easy feat, meaning it’s probably best to follow a touring plan, ensuring your time efficient on your trip.
What about if you want to focus on just visiting Walt Disney World in that time? Is it really necessary to follow a strict plan when you have so much time at your disposal?
Following a plan gives you more time to relax around the pool or at the hotel
Even when visitors to WDW give themselves upward of 14 days to make their way around the parks it’s still best to follow a touring plan.
Touring plans aren’t just good for fitting a lot into a small space of time, they also ensure that guests wait in line for as small amount of time as possible. It may seem more relaxing to spend your extra days not following a plan, but it means you may spend a lot of that time in line rather than enjoying yourself.
When I go to Walt Disney World I’m usually with people 18 and over, which means the adult 1-day touring plans for each of the four parks are ideal, or if we don’t want to see everything we’ll use the selective touring plans, which focus on the best attractions in the park and leave out the slightly less popular attractions.
My group may follow these plans for our first visits to each of the four parks then if we want to go back we’ll at least stick loosely to the plan in order to ensure that we avoid the long lines and big crowds.
The two-day touring plans for small children and the ‘happy family’ two-day touring plan for the Magic Kingdom are ideal for those on extended trips where you don’t want to be running from one attraction to another but still want to avoid long lines. The same can be said for the ‘not a touring plan touring plans’ at the other three parks.
Following a plan on a trip also offers other advantages. If you’ve covered all four parks with a plan then want to go back again you know what attractions are quiet at what times and when to go in order to avoid big lines.
Following a plan on my long vacations has allowed me to see so many other attractions in the Central Florida area I never would have done if I hadn’t had covered the parks so efficiently. It also allowed me to use my extra time relaxing by the pool or back at the hotel rather than stuck in lines.
Regardless of how long your vacation is it’s still beneficial to follow a touring plan for your visits to the parks and I know it’s something I’ll be doing on all of my upcoming trips.
Michael Owen is a blogger and UK resident who blogs regularly over at Theme Park Daily!
(photo #1 by Chris Harrison, photo #2 by Brissea)
by Sam Gennawey
on November 9, 2009
Not long ago, I was privileged to be a guest on the world famous WDW Today Podcast. I get my WDW news fix three times a week from Matt, Mike, Mike, and Len. The show topic was the design behind the arrival experience at each of the 4 parks. Making a great first impression is one of the hallmarks of the Disney parks. So let’s try and get into the head of the Imagineers and figure out why each entrance is unique but distinctly Disney.
There is an illustrated version of this article at SamLand’s Disney Adventures.
To understand the Magic Kingdom arrival experience is to go back in time and visit the City of Anaheim in 1953.
After many years of thinking and dreaming, Walt finally decided to move ahead with his dream of a family entertainment facility and he called upon his good friend Harrison “Buzz” Price. Mr. Price ran the Stanford Research Institute, which later became ERA AECOM. Walt laid down some constraints such as not being near an ocean and with flat land so he could create his own mountains, valleys, and rivers. Mr. Price did some research and he found 160 acres of orange and walnut groves about an hour south of Los Angeles in the small community of Anaheim. It had a lot going for it. There was a new freeway being built that would connect Los Angeles to San Diego through the sleep agricultural communities of Orange County. He thought there might be a small city with ambitions looking for industry to help out with the tax roles. Mr. Price was a numbers guy and what he crunched told him that this area would be the center of the Southern California population within 25 years. He was off by 4 miles.
So Walt gave the go ahead to purchase as much land as he could afford (which wasn’t much) and the rest of the story is legendary. Disneyland was an instant hit as Walt predicted and the land values throughout the entire surrounding area shot up. Poor Walt. Disneyland was destined to be surrounded by motels, diners, and other assorted uses that did not meet his high standards. If you want to get a sense of what the Disneyland perimeter looked like back then I recommend visiting Anaheim Vacationland.
The arrival experience for most people consisted of driving down Harbor Boulevard, which was lined with motels, dining spots, tourist support services, and gas stations. The jumble of signs tried to compete with the iconic Disneyland gateway marquee. We Southern Californians know what I am talking about. You paid your parking fee, drove under the power lines, were guided to your spot by a friendly cast member, and walked a short distance to a tram. Whisked to the front you paid for your tickets and the experience becomes very similar in design as the Magic Kingdom from this point forward.
Walt always said that the Florida Project gave him “the blessing of size”. He went out and purchased 27,258-acres for $5 million through an amazing process of dummy corporations and secrecy. He instructed his Imagineers to put the theme park at the far north end, as far away from the main highway as the could go. This served two purposes. First, it became the “wienie” that would draw you through the property past his real dream – the City of EPCOT. He really knew how to move people about. He also wanted the arrival experience to be far different from that in Anaheim.
This time you would leave the safety of the new completed Interstate highway and drive north into a vast wilderness. According to the must have book Since the World Began, the Imagineers felt it was “critical that Cinderella Castle be seen from afar”. Remember, at the time of the park’s opening, visitors had a six-mile drive once they left the main highway. They needed reassurance that they were not just driving into a swamp in Central Florida. Another benefit of having a castle that was more than twice as tall as Disneyland’s was it could be seen by all of the resort hotels, the monorail, and the ferries.
Walt encouraged the idea of a tall iconic design element for Disneyland but the implementation is much better at the Magic Kingdom. In Michael Broggie’s Walt Disney’s Railroad Story Walt is reminded his Imagineers “This is a magical place. The important thing is the castle. Make it tall enough to be seen from all around the park. It’s got to keep people oriented”.
Like a light bulb is to moths, Cinderella Castle is to the Magic Kingdom visitor.
But you just can’t hop on the tram and glide to the front gate like you could at Disneyland. The front gate was over a mile away and guarded by the Seven Seas Lagoon. You had to earn it. You parked, hopped on a tram, bought your ticket and then the adventure would really start. To get to the front gate, the Imagineers provided two uncommon forms of transport to choose from – the sleek futuristic monorail or the traditional old-fashioned ferryboat. Today, you can also take a bus from one of the resorts that goes under a canal. Next time you are visiting the park via the bus as you approach the Contemporary Resort watch for boats passing above you. It is an unusual site.
Once you have made it to the other side of the lagoon you become part of the cinematic experience that I describe in detail here and here. As you can see, by design and at great cost, the transition from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom front gate is nothing like the Disneyland experience. Like a good movie, as you approach you are experience the same sensation that one gets from a watching the opening sequence of a good movie. The stage is set with a long shot of the train station as marquee and the top spires of Cinderella peeking out above a forest. As you move forward your view of the spires are continually deflected but come back in focus and reward you with the sensations you are getting close. The mid-view shot of the train station blocks the Castle right at the front gate. But this only heightens the joy once you have passed through the tunnels below the trains and get your first full view of the Castle with nothing blocking it. By this time the spires have become old friends but now the rest of the structure can make its emotional impact.
Even before the public arrived, Disney wanted to make sure that people knew that Walt Disney World was something much more than just another Disneyland. They were very keen on selling the entire resort experience. The promotional materials highlighted the attractions that were unique at the Magic Kingdom: Liberty Square, Country Bear Jamboree, The Hall of Presidents, Space Mountain, the Mickey Mouse Revue, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. They were also heavy on the amenities such as boating, golfing, and other resort activities.
Lessons learned and lesson applied. That is the genius of the Magic Kingdom’s arrival experience.
by Sam Gennawey
on June 29, 2009
Hello. This is continuation of my walk through the various lands in the Magic Kingdom. This week we see how Liberty Square and Frontierland share a a lot of things in common but remain distinctly different in feel.
For more of this type of stuff I invite you to visit SamLand’s Disney Adventures.
Liberty Square is a carefully designed, fully immersive, urban environment. The staging of the design elements is meant to slow you down and soak up the atmosphere. The high level of detail is necessary because this land reflects the qualities of places that really exist and would be accessible to many of Walt Disney World’s visitors. The challenge for the design team was to create, as described by the Imagineers, an “enhanced reality” that is “better than real”.
This is something the Imagineers learned from the animators. In animation, successful storytelling requires you to find a way to suspend people’s disbelief so they could accept talking animals, puppets, clocks, beasts, etc. Walt Disney discovered that you had to create what he called the “plausible impossible”. One method was using highly detailed backgrounds. These backgrounds helped your imagination to accept that you have entered a real place. Once you have accepted the story’s time and location you could begin to accept whatever action was taking place in the foreground. This is how animators make the impossible possible.
Imagineers use a similar technique in the design phase for a project known as “eyewash”. Eyewash is used when the Imagineers are pitching a new concept and it is carried through to the finished environment. The designers are taught to take their idea to its extreme then illustrate it in such a way that makes it seem realistic. The details turn an idea that seems impossible into something that even the accountants will want built.
The design details of Liberty Square capture that early American spirit and set the stage for the shops and attractions. The setting is an urban experience with narrow streets that wind around the buildings. The buildings help to frame this space and create an outdoor room that is alive with storefronts, restaurants, and rocking chairs. The river adds that fourth wall which creates the coziest land in the Magic Kingdom.
Liberty Square is organized around a strong central element. In this case, the central element is the public square and the Liberty Tree. There are minimal vistas outside of Liberty Square. Only a glimpse of Frontierland can be seen from within the land. This preview of Frontierland is important because it becomes the second act in the Magic Kingdom’s time travel story.
Like a movie, the designers have used a consistent thematic thread that ties the two lands together. Combined, Liberty Square and Frontierland will take you through from the east coast of Colonial America and end some at the close of the American frontier in the late 1880s.
Liberty Square and Frontierland use typological architectural details that provide us clues for our trip through time and geography. In Liberty Square, our trip begins in New York along the banks of the lower Hudson River in the early 1700s. The Haunted Mansion is based on the gothic architecture of the Harry Packer Mansion built in 1874 in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The brickwork, heavy stone base and cornerstones, are typical of English Tudor buildings. The building is away from the main square and off to the side. Frankly, the Disneyland version seems like a nice suburban house. This one is kind of scary.
And don’t speed past the cemetery at the end. You will miss something special in the upper left hand corner. One of my favorite Disney characters has taken up a permanent home at the Magic Kingdom. At least he is still alive in Disneyland.
The Columbia Harbor House would feel right at home in the port city of Boston in the mid-1700s. It is also the site of a brilliant transition from one land to the next. The upper dining room bridges over the walkway. One side is themed to Fantasyland and the other is all Liberty Square. This effect is used in other places between Adventureland and Frontierland. Keep an eye out for it. You are probably rushing to the restroom when this magic happens.
Leaving the Haunted Mansion, the buildings begin to take on the Georgian style, which was popular in Williamsburg during the late 1700s. In just that short distance we have moved almost 50 years. The Hall of Presidents is modeled after buildings in Philadelphia at the time of the Constitution’s adoption in 1787. This structure is the centerpiece to the land. Everything else supports this structure. The Liberty Tree helps to soften the public square that is frame by the Hall, the shops, the loading dock for the Liberty Belle, and most importantly, the Rivers of America and the island representing the endless western frontier and the end to our first act.
Liberty Square is not merely a reproduction of a colonial village. It is way too clean. But it has an urban complexity that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom. Much like New Orleans Square at Disneyland (which it is modeled after) it uses its design elements, compact design, winding pathways, blend of hardscapes and supporting plant materials to create the sensation of being in another time and place.
Speaking of Disneyland, Liberty Square was first thought of as an offshoot of Main Street USA. On the earliest park souvenir map drawn by Sam McKim, is an area called Liberty Street. In the space where the parade exists in Town Square plus the lonely wooden structure between the Opera House and the stores has long been the entrance to another land. At first it was International Street – the precursor to the World Showcase at Epcot. In 1958 that concept was put back into the draw and flipped to Liberty Street. Another example of how Imagineers never let a good idea really die.
The building that bridges the divide between the two lands is the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. The western migration had a natural border – the Mississippi River. At the water’s edge was the mighty city of St. Louis. In the 1820s, this type of building would have been typical. It is from here we begin our second act in this historical epic.
Next week we continue along that strip mall we like to call Frontierland.