Vote of the week: Which original Walt Disney World attraction do you miss most?
Written by Robert NilesForty years is a lot of time, but most of the attraction you would have found at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on that opening day in 1971 are still operating today.
Published: September 29, 2011 at 9:00 PM
Obviously, the park's added many more attractions over the years - including Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. But with 22 more acres to work with that the original Disneyland (107 acres to 85), the Magic Kingdom's not had to close that many attractions over the years to make room for new adventures.
In fact, there are just five rides from Disney World's opening month that you won't find today in the Magic Kingdom (according to this opening-day map from Disney).
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes - Paddle your canoe around the Rivers of America on a guided tour around Tom Sawyer's Island. You'll do the work, while your guides crack the jokes. My favorite? "Over yonder you'll see a popular sight - Fort Sam Clemens. Can anyone tell me the connection between Fort Sam Clemens and Tom Sawyer's Island?" The canoe host will pause for a moment while some literate guest explains pen names and such, then stare incredulously at him/her before replying: "No, you library-loving city slicker. The connection is a bridge!"
The Mike Fink Keelboats - Another trip around the Rivers of America, except this time you don't need to "stroke, stroke, stroke." You'll ride on the Bertha Mae or Gullywhumper while your host points out the highlights around the river, often telling many of the same jokes you might hear on the canoes. The ride closed in 1997, after the Gullywhumper capsized at Disneyland.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - This is one of two rides you can still experience at Disneyland in California. (The canoes is the other.) Based on the classic "The Wind in the Willows," Mr. Toad's Wild Ride earned the love of a generation of somewhat sarcastic fans for being a Disney ride in which you, literally, ended up in Hell.
Skyway to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland - The "sky buckets" provided high-in-the-sky aerial views of the Magic Kingdom, but Disney closed all of its skyways in the 1990s, a decade in which cost-cutting claimed many older rides around the Disney empire. The Magic Kingdom's closure in 1999 came months after a fatal accident claimed the life of a park maintenance worker.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Walt Disney World's version of Disneyland's submarine ride put the Anaheim original to creative shame. Instead of unthemed subs on an expedition to the North Pole, here you rode with Captain Nemo in a scaled-down recreation of the Nautilus itself, visiting not just the Pole but what might have been the lost continent of Atlantis, in a much more detailed storyline. Today, the old 20K sub lagoon's been filled in and is the work site of the new Fantasyland expansion.
In addition to those rides, two of the parks' opening-day shows are no longer part of the park - The Mickey Mouse Revue, which was shipped off to Tokyo Disneyland, and the Diamond Horseshoe Jamboree, which fell victim to 1990s cost-cutting. (The Main Street Cinema's gone now, too.)
Many other attractions have come and gone during the past four decades, including the Swan Boats, Magic Journeys, Legend of the Lion King, Mission to Mars, Alien Encounter, If You Had Wings/Could Fly, Delta Dreamflight, several CircleVision movies, Timekeeper and the entire Mickey's Birthdayland/Starland/Toontown Fair. Several others have changed their names. (A great source for a virtual revisit to the Disney World of yesteryear is Widen Your World. Check it out sometime... when you've got hours to spare. You'll need them.)
But which one, of those now-gone original five rides, do you miss most? Or, if you never experienced them, which one sounds like the one you'd most wish for the chance to ride?
If you visit the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, I'd love to see your photos and trip reports. If you email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll share them with the rest of the Theme Park Insider community in a post this weekend.
Finally, if you - like me - can't make it to Orlando for the birthday this weekend, but are still in the mood for a Disney fix, might I suggest downloading a copy of "Stories from a Theme Park Insider"? Our eBook includes 40 stories about life working inside the Magic Kingdom, from me and other Theme Park Insider readers. At just $3.99 for Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad it's a "fantastic read for a WDW fan," according to reader reviews.
Unlike some other books in this genre, "Stories from a Theme Park Insider" doesn't dwell on life outside the parks, or wallow in the debauchery of 20-something cast members. Sure, there are some embarrassing moments (I will never again wear a "Randy" nametag), but the book is really just a fun celebration of life working in a wonderful theme park.
So, in that spirit of celebration: Happy birthday, Disney World!
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What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
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