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A Brief History of

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The Magic Kingdom opened its gates for the first time on October 1, 1971. It was Walt Disney Productions second theme park and patterned after the successful Disneyland in California. Although it was Walt Disney’s concept he did not live to see construction begin. On October 25, 1971 the park was dedicated by Walt’s brother and founding partner in Walt Disney Productions, Roy O Disney.

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Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney... and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and new Knowledge to all who come to this happy place... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh a play and learn - together.

 

It is important to note that unlike any of the other Disneyland-style theme parks, The Magic Kingdom was not designed as a stand alone attraction. It was conceived of as only one part of the massive, continually evolving project that is the Walt Disney World Resort.

When the park opened it had six lands ( Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) and 23 attractions. Opening day attractions included the following.

 

Main Street Vehicles, Walt Disney World Railroad, Main Street Cinema, Penny Arcade, Skyway, Mickey Mouse Review, Jungle Cruise, Sunshine Pavilion, Swiss Family Treehouse, Mike Fink Keel Boats, Diamond Horseshoe Review, Frontier Shooting Gallery, Country Bear Jamboree, Davey Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents, Snow White’s Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel, Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, Mad Tea Party, It’s a Small World, and Grand Prix Raceway.

wpe16.gif (23896 bytes)Between opening day and dedication day, several other attractions were added to the park (Admiral Joe Fowler River Boat, Peter Pan’s Flight, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea etc.)

 

By Thanksgiving 1971 Magic Kingdom visitors caused Central Florida’s biggest traffic jam and proved that the Magic Kingdom was a huge success.

Tomorrowland opened with almost no attractions up and running. Imagineers planned to open the area slowly with a completion date in 1975. The first new attraction to open was Circle-Vision in November 1971, followed by Flight to the Moon on Christmas Eve 1971, and in June 1972 If You Had Wings debuted.

 

Over at the other end of the Park things were brewing. A plot of land next to the Rivers of America had been set aside for an attraction called the Western River Expedition. This attraction was intended to be a river journey past bandits and other Audio Animatronic characters. This would be an attraction unique to the Magic Kingdom and was intended to be installed in lue of the successful Disneyland attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. But many guests came to the park expecting to see Pirates of the Caribbean, and were disappointed when it wasn’t there. So, Disney decided to scrap the the Western River Expedition and build a second Pirates attraction in Adventureland.

In 1973 Pirates of the Caribbean opened, along with a new area of Adventureland, Caribbean Plaza. Also that year, rafts began transporting guests to Tom Saywer Island and the Richard F. Irvine Riverboat had its maiden voyage.

We go back to Tomorrowland for 1974. On January 15, Space Mountain opened. It is one of the most unique and exciting attractions ever developed by the Imagineers, and the first completely original major attraction designed for the Florida park. Although overshadowed by Space Mountain, other attractions opening in 1974 included the Circle Vision show,  Magic Carpet 'Round the World, and the Star Jets.

In 1975 a basic problem with Tomorrowland became obvious. The design of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was based on the Tomorrowland built at Disneyland in 1967. By 1975, it was already eight years out of date. The first example of this was the closing of Flight to the Moon on April 15, 1975. Even before the last of Tomorrowland attractions had come on line for the first time, one of them had to be closed and updated. On June 7, 1975 Mission to Mars opened in the building where Flight to the Moon had been for two and a half short years.

Later that year, the last two original Tomorrowland attractions opened, The WEDWAY People Mover and the Carousel of Progress.

At this point things quieted down at the Magic Kingdom while the company turned its attention to designing and building the second Walt Disney World theme park, EPCOT Center.

Walt Disney World opened with a unique Electrical Water Pageant presented in 7 Seas Lagoon out in front of the Magic Kingdom. The Imagineers took this concept, developed it further and in 1972, the Main Street Electrical Parade premiered at Disneyland. In 1977, The Main Street Electrical Parade came home to its roots and on June 11, stepped off for the first time in the Magic Kingdom.

Changes at the Magic Kingdom were slow in coming due to EPCOT Center. In 1979, things slowed even further when Walt Disney Productions signed a contract with the Oriental Land Company to build their first theme park in a foreign country. Tokyo Disneyland was officially under way.

Over in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, the empty patch of ground originally meant to be the home of the Western River Expedition, became the home to the park’s second thrill ride, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. At 197 feet, Big Thunder Mountain is the tallest Mountain in Florida. Although Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was installed at Disneyland first (1979), it was originally designed for this plot of land in the Magic Kingdom and opened there in 1980.

 

In 1980, The Mickey Mouse Review in Fantasyland was closed so that it could be shipped to Tokyo where it would open with the newest Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland. The theatre in which the Mickey Mouse Review was located was closed and only used occasionally for the next six years.

On October 1, 1981, The Magic Kingdom turned 10 years old, and on October 1, 1982 EPCOT Center opened its gates for the first time. Six months later on April 15, 1983 Tokyo Disneyland debuted. Also in 1983, the new Fantasyland at Disneyland was unveiled. Over the next few years several major expansions were scheduled at EPCOT Center. With all this attention going to other parks and other expansions going on within Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom was sadly ignored through out much of the 1980’s.

In 1986, Magic Journeys a film developed for EPCOT was replaced at that park by a new attraction, Captain Eo. Magic Journeys moved into Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, occupying the former home of the Mickey Mouse Review.

wpe18.gif (34044 bytes)In 1988 Mickey Mouse was celebrating his 60th birthday and the Magic Kingdom celebrated by opening Mickey’s Birthdayland, a "temporary area" which featured a chance to tour the famous mouse’s house, see him in a show, and then get his autograph afterwards. This area was so successful that it stayed around long after its projected closing date.

 

1989 marked the completion of a major Walt Disney World expansion. The third theme park, Disney/MGM Studios opened along with Typhoon Lagoon and Pleasure Island. Finally, some attention could be paid to the Magic Kingdom.

On May 26, 1990 Mickey’s Birthdayland received a new show and some new dressings, and became Mickey’s Starland.

wpe1B.gif (6924 bytes)In 1991 Walt Disney World Celebrated it’s 20th birthday.

 

In 1992 The Magic Kingdom opened it’s first major attraction in 12 years, Splash Mountain while across the ocean, Disneyland Paris, the 4th magic kingdom, opened for business.

In 1994, The Magic Kingdom responded to the overwhelming success of Disney’s 32nd animated feature, The Lion King, and opened the Legend of the Lion King in Fantasyland at the theater that formerly held Magic Journeys. The attraction uses puppets to retell the story of the successful movie.

 

Also in 1994, Fantasyland lost one of its original attractions as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was closed.

wpe1D.gif (15368 bytes)Over in Tomorrowland, things were looking pretty sad. Disneyland’s Tomorrowland had the addition of Captain EO and Star Tours to pick it up, but at the Walt Disney World Resort these attractions opened in other parks. Tomorrowland had gone for nearly 20 years without any substantial changes. And at the rate technology advances, Tomorrowland simply wasn’t Tomorrowland any more.

 

Imagineers were not interested in producing a new view of the future. They had already done that over at Future World in EPCOT Center. They took their cue from the newly opened Disneyland Paris. That park has no Tomorrowland. Instead, they built Discoveryland which used centuries-old ideas about what the future would be like.

But, for the Magic Kingdom, they didn’t go back that far. They took images from movies and comic books from the 20’s and 30’s, and redesigned Tomorrowland with that look.

In 1995, the new Tomorrowland opened with a new look for old attractions, and couple of brand new ones besides.

The Carousel of Progress received a facelift, during which the original song, Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, was returned. The WEDway People Mover became the Tomorrowland Transportation Authority. The Star Jets got a whole new look and a new name, and became the Astro Orbiter.

Based on an ideal first realized at Disneyland Paris, Circle Vision became the Transportarium (later renamed The Time Keeper), an attraction that tells a story using the circle vision technology along with Audio Animatronics.

An all new attraction was installed in the old Mission to Mars building. The ExtraTERRORestial Alien Encounter puts the guest in the middle of an experiment gone wrong as a hostile alien monster menaces its captive audience. This attraction is unique to the Magic Kingdom.

A new video arcade, The Tomorrowland Light and Power Co., was erected next to Space Mountain.

In early 1996, Mickey’s Starland was shut down and redesigned as Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Based on the popular Toontown attractions installed in California and Japan, Mickey’s Toontown fair includes Minnie’s Country House, Donald’s Boat, and The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacres farm, a roller coaster

The last attraction opened on October 1, 1996, the Parks 25th birthday. Also on this day, a new Little Mermaid Meet and Greet area opened up next to the old 20,000 leagues under the Sea attraction, and a preview center opened on Main Street.

The latest addition, in 1997, a new riverboat, The River Belle, replaced the old Richard Irvine.

In 1998, a new version of Tropical Serenade opened in Adventureland. The new show features Iago and Zazu, bird characters from Disney's animated features Aladdin and The Lion King.

In the fall of the same year over in Tomorrowland, Take Flight was removed to make way for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, an attraction where you use laser guns to shoot at Aliens as you ride through.

And the latest new attraction opened in Fantasyland in the summer of 1999 as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

 

Things at the Magic Kingdom are moving at last!

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