Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.” Imagineers have made sure that the Disneyland and the Disney Parks have stayed true to that intention throughout the years.
In fact, the Walt Disney World Resort has been changing and growing a great deal in the past few years, such as the addition of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and re-imagining of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, and prepares for new openings like the Rivers of Light show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and the Frozen Ever After attraction at Epcot. But oftentimes, to gain something new, something has to be given up and past attractions must make way for new ones, such as in the closure of attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in preparation for Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land. Fortunately, Disney has a tradition of honoring its history while in the business of creating that great, big, beautiful tomorrow, and oftentimes through little tributes and details and even the recycling and reimagining of familiar icons.
I recently took a trip to the Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to uncover some of these tributes and relics from the park’s past. I tried to avoid including those that many fans already know about–such as the windows on Main Street, U.S.A. or the picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to Owl at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh–in hopes that you may discover something new and maybe get a little dose of nostalgia in today’s Walt Disney World Relics and Tributes: The Magic Kingdom.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the Magic Kingdom’s newest attraction and one of the crown jewels of New Fantasyland. This attraction is incredibly detailed and a ton of fun, but one of the things I appreciate about most is its number of tributes to a former Fantasyland attraction: Snow White’s Scary Adventures.
Snow White’s Scary Adventures was a classic dark ride and one of the park’s original opening day attractions. It sadly closed in 2012 due to New Fantasyland; but it’s sister attraction, by the same name, is still operating at the Disneyland Park today. It’s never easy to lose an attraction, especially one with so much history, and I suppose Imagineers felt the same way because there are a number of relics and nods from Snow White’s Scary Adventures hidden in and around this coaster.
When walking around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or while aboard your gently swinging mine car, look up and you might see two menacing vultures. Do they look familiar? They used to be part of Snow White’s Scary Adventures! Imagineers recycled these feathered scavengers for the park’s newest Snow White-themed attraction; and in doing so, made a piece of the past work for the present.
Another New Fantasyland attraction, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid contains a number of tributes to the park’s former 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction. Before it closed in 1994, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea allowed guests to board submarines and explore the ocean depths to discover mermaids, volcanoes, Atlantis, and even the attack of a giant squid! Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid and its surrounding area now sits on the space that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea once called home; and since that legendary attraction is still known and missed by guests today, Imagineers were sure to include reminders of the attraction that first took guests under the sea.
When in the area around Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, look up when passing the H. Goff Cartography shop, currently a DVC Sales Center, to see a tribute to the squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Also, the H. Goff Cartography shop is a nod to Ralph Harper Goff, the Disney artist who designed the look of the iconic Nautilus submarine for Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film.
While perhaps obvious, I appreciate the fact that both attractions that have occupied the space accomplished the same goal which was to take guests under the sea for an adventure. Also, both attractions included mermaids!
When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea closed, the story is that Cast Members bottled some of the water from the lagoon and kept it. Years later, the water was dumped back into the tide pools that now surround Prince Eric’s Castle at Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. Cool, right?
In the rockwork around Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Imagineers have cleverly hidden an outline of the Nautilus submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, along with a few Hidden Mickeys. Keep a sharp eye out for both!
King Triton Statue
In 1996, the Magic Kingdom added Ariel’s Grotto next to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon where guests could meet and greet with Ariel in a rock grotto decked with starfish, seaweed, and, of course, thingamabobs. At the back of the grotto, there was a waterfall that fell into the lagoon and a bronze statue of King Triton with his trident pointed towards Ariel’s Grotto and which spouted water. Now some guests may not remember this little Fantasyland addition; but as an avid fan of The Little Mermaid, I sure do! I guess the Imagineers remembered it too because today, when walking in front of the new Ariel’s Grotto, there is another King Triton across the path in front of Seafarer’s Wood Carving and next to H. Goff Cartography. I first thought that the new statue was a little random; but when I remembered the original King Triton statue, I realized they both shared the same pose and both pointed towards Ariel’s Grotto. They only difference is that the original was bronze while today’s is meant to look like wood. Seems to me that the Imagineers were recreating a little piece of Fantasyland history and it’s only made me appreciate this new area even more.
Princess Fairytale Hall is a royal-themed, indoor, air-conditioned meet and greet area for the Disney Princesses in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland and has been notorious in recent years for its wait times to meet the Frozen sisters, Anna and Elsa. Princess Fairytale Hall is still new as it first opened in 2013. Before that, the space was occupied with Snow White’s Scary Adventures and there are several relics and tributes to this classic at Princess Fairytale Hall today.
Snow White Storybook
Inside of Princess Fairytale Hall, there is an open storybook on display; but what’s interesting is that the book tells the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, perhaps to pay homage to the space’s original occupant? It’s also written in German as Snow White story is a German fairytale!
When in front of Princess Fairytale Hall, take note of the gold crowns decking the top of the posts at the entrance. Surprisingly, they were not created for Princess Fairytale Hall but for Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Yes, for years those gorgeous crowns had added a royal flair to the classic attraction’s exterior; and when it closed, Imagineers decided to keep them as they complimented Princess Fairytale Hall perfectly. In fact, guests may notice a crown motif all throughout Princess Fairytale Hall, my personal favorite being the crown-inspired chandeliers!
Flight of the Navigator Spaceship
In Tomorrowland, not far from Space Mountain, you will find the Thirst Rangers Spaceship and Cool Scanner. It’s works with the retro-futuristic theme of Tomorrowland and sprays a cool mist to keep passing guests refreshed on an especially hot and sticky Central Florida afternoon. But what makes this spaceship interesting to me is that it’s spaceship from the 1986 Disney film Flight of the Navigator! I remember watching this flick on the Disney Channel when I was growing up and I love that a relic from the film is in Tomorrowland today. Be sure to look for it during your next trip!
Tomorrowland Skyway Station
Do you still remember the Magic Kingdom Skyway? Before it closed in 1999, the Skyway transported guests in elevated gondolas over Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Guests would board the Skyway at either the Fantasyland Station or the Tomorrowland Station. The Fantasyland Station remained standing for years after its closure but was recently replaced with the new Tangled Bathrooms. I’ve looked for some sort of tribute or remnant of the Skyway, but I’ve yet to find one yet. However, the Tomorrowland Station is still standing to this day; and coincidentally, it’s also a bathroom! It’s called the Rockettower Plaza Stage Restrooms and sits between Space Mountain and the Carousel of Progress and right behind the Ursa Major Minor Cart.
In the space around the Magic Kingdom’s Magic Carpets of Aladdin, there are two gold camels which have been known to spit water an unsuspecting guests! Tip: If you see a puddle of water at the parks, and the pavement around it is dry, you’re probably about to get wet! However, these particular camels didn’t always call Adventureland home, but used to be part of Aladdin’s Royal Caravan parade which ran from 1992 through 1995 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then known as Disney – MGM Studios.
Once you’ve seen the camels, look down to find jewels, bits of jewelry, and broken tiles embedded in the pavement. It’s a cool detail, and one that guests in a rush may not notice, but what’s even more interesting is the story that the tiles came from a fountain that used to sit in Adventureland. When it was removed, Imagineers had old tiles embedded into the pavement!
A Magic Kingdom cult favorite, the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland is somewhat of a relic in itself and contains a number of nods to the park’s past. PeopleMovers were a mode of transportation that Walt planned to use in his original plan for EPCOT, which wasn’t a theme park but an innovative community. While Walt’s vision was never fully realized, I love the fact that a little piece of that dream is still at Walt Disney World. In fact, one of the relics to see aboard the PeopleMover is a model of Progress City, an early version of the original EPCOT! If you’re looking for even more Disney Park history, listen for a reference to a Mr. Tom Morrow and a Mr. Johnson. Both names are a reference to past Tomorrowland attractions, such as Flight to the Moon and Mission to Mars. Tom Morrow also had a role at Epcot’s Innoventions in years prior as well.
Disney has a history of recycling elements and even floats from past parades to use in new ones. This is true of the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy which first began its daily afternoon run in March of 2014 and won me over immediately. Seriously, this is one of the best Disney parades I’ve seen at the Magic Kingdom and helped to soothe the loss of one of my previous favorites, Spectromagic. It helped even more to learn that Sebastian, who is leading the way on the Festival of Fantasy’s Little Mermaid float, was once part of Spectromagic back in the day!
Those are just a handful of the Walt Disney World relics and tributes to be found at the Magic Kingdom. Have you uncovered any of your own? Be sure to share some Disney history in the comments below!