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Robert Niles

Life Magazine archive of classic Disney theme park photos

Published: November 27, 2008 at 7:42 PM

Okay, lots of other websites have been doing this, and I just had to join in. In case you hadn't heard, Google's booked a deal with the owner of Life magazine's photo archive to place and host thousands of images from the magazine, including many never before published, on the Web for free.

I searched through the archive and grabbed five classic Disneyland images, plus one from the opening of Walt Disney World. Let's start with Life's classic image from the opening of Disneyland in 1955, with children running through Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Sure, it's a great shot, but it always bugged me 'cause it shows the kids... fleeing from Fantasyland back toward the park exit! Here's a more accurate picture, with the crowd following Disney characters through the castle. (Even if it is a worse photo, due to everyone having their backs to the camera.)

Here's picture of the Mad Tea Party, in its original location next to the castle, in Fantasyland.

And another of Frontierland's Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland.

This is my favorite shot from the archive, a stunning photo from the climbers' POV at the top of the Matterhorn. In the background, you see... hey, wait a minute, something's not right here....

Yep. The image is reversed. Here is the image flipped to the correct orientation. Over the climber's right shoulder, you can see Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship, Storybook Land, Midget Autopia, the old Fantasyland train station and the Matterhorn dispatch station.

Finally, here's the opening day cast photo that Life ran on its front cover celebrating Walt Disney World's opening in October 1971.

You can search the complete Life magazine photo archive on Google at

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Replies (5)

Max LaZebnik

Published: November 28, 2008 at 12:14 PM

Really cool!! Always fun to see old pics of theme parks!!
Anthony Murphy

Published: November 29, 2008 at 8:55 AM

I like your comment of the children fleeing from Fantasyland!
Joshua Counsil

Published: November 30, 2008 at 7:32 PM

When they saw how marginal Fantasyland is in comparison to the other lands, of course they fled. Or maybe they just saw the price of a churro.

Either way, these pictures are amazing.

Anthony Murphy

Published: November 30, 2008 at 7:37 PM

It would be funny if we could find or submit a funny theme park picture and then we could "add a caption"
Marc Ricketts

Published: December 1, 2008 at 12:22 PM

What, you've never ridden dnaL koobyrotS? If my son ever works at DL, I have no doubt that it will be climbing the Horn.
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