5 Magical Facts About Fantasyland
In a lot of ways, Fantasyland has always felt like the heart of the Magic Kingdom to me. Maybe it’s because so many of the attractions tie back to classic Disney films like Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and more. Perhaps it’s because you have to pass through Cinderella Castle to enter that portion of the park. Or maybe it’s simply because it is the portion of Magic Kingdom that most makes me feel like a little kid again.
Fantasyland drips with Magic. Every corner brings some new source of wonder and there’s always more to discover. Let’s take a look at five things you may not know about Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.
1. From Detroit to Disney
Fantasyland is home to the park’s oldest attraction (built over a century ago!): Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. It’s an exquisite piece of theme park craftsmanship, made in 1917 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Back then it was known as the Liberty Carrousel at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan.
German and Italian artists carved the carousel and, if you’ve ever taken a ride on it, you’ve no doubt noticed that they were masters of their craft. The original had thousands of lights and a sixty foot platform. The original number of horses has been reported as either 90 or 80, along with four chariots and sleighs.
After its time in Detroit, the carousel was moved to Olympic Park in New Jersey in 1929. It remained there until it was purchased by Disney. It was one of the Magic Kingdom’s opening day attractions and remains a beloved part of the park, creating countless new memories alongside all those it has collected over a century in existence.
2. It All Began With…A Rabbit?
Though Mickey Mouse has become the definitive Disney character, he might not ever have been created if not for the loss of another character: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Created in 1927, Oswald became a success for Disney and a contract was signed to produce 27 pictures for the plucky rabbit. However, in 1928 Walt Disney lost Oswald and a significant number of his animators to producer Charles Mintz. The loss forced Walt and animator Ub Iwerks to create a new character. That’s how Mickey was born. This sort of experience, seizing success from catastrophe, no doubt informed Walt’s thinking when he stated, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
Because Oswald played such a key role in Disney history, and indirectly led to the creation of Mickey Mouse, it makes sense that there would be some homage paid to him in the park. In fact, there are two “hidden” Oswalds located in Fantasyland. The first is located in front of the Entrance to Enchanted Tales with Belle. Three stones in the ground bear the likeness of Oswald’s head and ears. The second can be seen on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You’ve got to be pretty eagle eyed to catch it, but as you pass Doc you can see Oswald carved into a log of wood.
3. Mickey’s Birthday Secret
Speaking of hidden images, most everyone is familiar with Hidden Mickeys. They’re the hidden images of Mickey Mouse that can be found throughout Walt Disney World. Most have been so skillfully woven into the scenery by Imagineers that you’ll probably miss them if you don’t know what you are looking for. However, one is more hidden than all the rest.
Located in the queue to Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, the Mickey can only be seen one day a year, and even then it can only be seen for a brief time. You have to be in line at 12 p.m. on November 18 (Mickey’s Birthday). If you’re standing in the right spot, the placement of the sun will reveal the hidden image of Mickey.
4. Fantasyland has Doubled in Size
On opening day, Fantasyland occupied 10 acres within the park. Today, Fantasyland takes up 21 acres. The expansion began with an announcement at the D23 expo in 2009. The New Fantasyland opened in 2012 and was officially completed in 2014 with the opening of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The new attractions on opening day (December 6, 2012) were Under the Sea : Journey of The Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Ariel’s Grotto, Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts. It was the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history.
5. What is Carolwood Park?
Storybook Circus is home to the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction, a perennial favorite of Fantasyland. What you might not know about this portion of the Magic Kingdom is that the circus is said to be set up in Carolwood Park. This is a subtle and loving allusion to Walt Disney and his love of trains.
In 1950, Walt Disney built a miniature railroad in the backyard of his home in Holmby Hills, California. He dubbed the railroad the Carolwood Pacific. It consisted of over 2,000 feet of track, a 46 foot long trestle, and a 90 foot tunnel that ran beneath Lillian Disney’s flowerbed. The train was ⅛ scale and ran on a 7 ¼ inch gauge railroad. Walt even built a barn in the middle of the set up where he could control the train and watch it.
The Carolwood Pacific could be said to be tied to the creation of Disneyland and, by extension, Walt Disney World. It’s said that it served as one of the places where he began to develop his ideas for family friendly theme parks. In fact, when Walt conceived of his parks he once said, “I just want it to look like nothing else in the world, and it should be surrounded by a train.”
It’s little details like this that I love about Disney. Everything in the parks has a purpose and a story. Everything is done with a loving nod to the past, while the parks keep moving forward into the future. It’s utterly magical.