History and photos of the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Located behind Cinderella Castle and between Liberty Square and Tomorrowland is Fantasyland, a land in the Magic Kingdom dedicated to the world of make-believe. It's a place where you can let your imagination run wild in a land that Walt Disney once referred to as "a timeless land of entertainment."
Fantasyland is essentially the core of the Magic Kingdom theme park. Here is where you'll find the greatest concentration of rides, shows and restaurants themed to the classic Disney animated films. It's in Fantasyland where you'll also consistently find the biggest crowds as people flock to their favorite classic rides as well as the new Fantasyland expansion and those attractions as well. While Fantasyland tends to focus more on kids' rides, people of all ages can find amusement in this section of the Magic Kingdom.
Throughout the history of the Magic Kingdom theme park, you'll find that Fantasyland has constantly seen some sort of change, whether it's a new attraction, the removal of an old ride, or simply a ride being re-themed or upgraded, every couple of years. While Fantasyland has seen a great deal of change since the theme park opened in 1971, you can still find some familiar sights and sounds that date back to the early days of the theme park. Parts of the land still have that feeling of familiarity to those park guests who haven't visited the place in many years.
The original version of Fantasyland in 1971 opened with ten attractions: Skyway, "it's a small world", Peter Pan's Flight, The Mickey Mouse Revue, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Cinderella's Golden Carrousel, Snow White's Adventures, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and the Mad Tea Party.
By 1984, most of Fantasyland still looked like it did when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. The biggest differences included the closing and removal of The Mickey Mouse Revue (it closed back in 1980) and a roof added to the Mad Tea Party. The original version of the Mad Tea Party had no covering over the ride.
1971 through 1984 marked the calmest part of Fantasyland's history. From the mid 1980s through today, the land experienced some significant changes every three to four years.
By 1987 the 3-D show Magic Journeys became part of Fantasyland. This 3-D show was moved to the Magic Kingdom after Captain E.O. replaced it at the Journey Into Imagination pavilion at EPCOT Center.
1994 marked a turning point in Fantasyland, one where the classic rides began to be changed or outright eliminated from the land. By this point in time Magic Journeys was already removed (it closed in 1993), and Legend of the Lion King had taken its place and opened in 1994. Dumbo the Flying Elephant received an upgrade in 1993 that gave the ride a much fancier look and also increased the number of ride vehicles from ten to sixteen.
Later in 1994, Snow White's Adventures would be converted to Snow White's Scary Adventures, a move that changed most of the scenes in the ride. One of the biggest changes to Fantasyland occurred on September 5, 1994 when 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea closed for good. The ride's lagoon would still remain as scenery in Fantasyland for roughly the next ten years, but the classic submarine ride was permanently closed.
It's generally considered that the time period from 1987 through part of 1994 was Fantasyland's Renaissance. For most people this was basically when Fantasyland was, in fact, Fantasyland. You could ride the Skyway into the land, enjoy the scary version of the Snow White ride, sit back and enjoy a 3-D show that explored the world of imagination, and even take a submarine ride into unexplored regions deep in the oceans. That was in addition to flying in a pirate ship to Neverland, spinning in a giant teacup, riding along on a trip to "nowhere in particular," and enjoying a classic ride on a carousel. By the end of 1994, much of that had changed.
1997 saw the transformation of Cinderella Castle into a giant birthday cake as part of the Magic Kingdom's 25th anniversary "birthday" celebration. By this point in time Fantasyland saw the addition of Ariel's Grotto, a small play area where kids could also greet and have their picture taken with Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Part of the theming of Ariel's Grotto included a statue of King Triton standing in the old 20,000 Leagues lagoon.
By 1999, Fantasyland had seen another major change. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride closed for good on September 7, 1998. Many people were upset with Disney when it was announced that this ride was going to be closed. Some people even protested outside of the ride to try to convince Disney to change its mind. The protests never gained enough support and the ride was closed and demolished.
On June 4, 1999, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh took the place of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. However, just as one major ride just opened, the area would see yet another ride closure before the year was complete. On November 10, 1999, the Skyway closed for good. While the support towers for the cables were quickly removed, the Fantasyland station for Skyway would remain there until 2012.
By 2001, Fantasyland saw another small expansion with the Fairytale Garden, a place where Disney princesses would read stories to little kids. This little expansion was tucked into the eastern side of Fantasyland between the Enchanted Grove and the pathway to Cinderella Castle.
By 2006 the landscape in Fantasyland had changed yet again. The Legend of the Lion King closed in 2002 and was replaced in 2003 with the 3-D show, Mickey's PhilharMagic. The old 20,000 Leagues lagoon was finally demolished in 2004 to make way for what would ultimately become a major expansion to the Magic Kingdom ---- in another six years. In the meantime, that space of land was partially occupied with Pooh's Playful Spot, a playground themed to Winnie the Pooh which, coincidently, was located right across the path from the playground.
In 2010, construction finally began for the major expansion to Fantasyland. The expansion would add new attractions to the rear section of Fantasyland as well as take over all of Mickey's ToonTown Fair. To make room for the new additions, Ariel's Grotto and Pooh's Playful Spot were both closed and demolished. However, the spirit (and some of the theming) of both of those attractions would continue with the new version of Fantasyland. The large tree in Pooh's Playful Spot would be relocated to the front of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The ride's line queue also saw much more theming and some interactive exhibits in the spirit of the old play area. In late 2012, a newer version of Ariel's Grotto opened with the new Little Mermaid ride.
June 1, 2010 marked the changing of Cinderella's Golden Carrousel to Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, a relatively small change to the classic attraction that helped tell the story of Cinderella.
In the spring of 2012, the first phase of the new Fantasyland was open to the public. Mickey's ToonTown Fair had been re-themed into a place called Storybook Circus. This area included the re-theming of The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm to simply The Barnstormer. Dumbo the Flying Elephant had been relocated to Storybook Circus, doubled in size (there are now two Dumbo rides instead of just one), and given an indoor line queue / playground themed to the 1941 film. The area also saw the addition of Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station, a water playground for kids to splash around on hot days.
May 31, 2012 marked the closing of the Snow White's Scary Adventures ride. It was replaced with Princess Fairytail Hall in 2013.
By 2013, the next phase of the new Fantasyland was complete. This included the new ride Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid as well as Ariel's Grotto. The expansion also included the Be Our Guest Restaurant and Gaston's Tavern, both restaurants are from the animated film Beauty and the Beast.
The final stage of the new Fantasyland expansion is scheduled to be complete on May 28, 2014 with the opening of Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train, a kiddie roller coaster themed to the first of the full-length Disney animated films.
Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom has always been one of the busiest lands in the theme park. With all of these changes and new additions over the past couple of years, expect Fantasyland to be packed with people. The quietest times in Fantasyland are when the park first opens and just before the park closes. Otherwise, unless you're there in the off-season, expect to have heavy crowds in this part of the Magic Kingdom.
Additional photo pages for Fantasyland include:
Pinocchio Village Haus counter-service restaurant
Pooh's Playful Spot (EXTINCT!)
Snow White's Scary Adventures (EXTINCT!)
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