Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom opened for guests on October 1, 1971 - 16 years after Disneyland had opened across the country in Anaheim, California. While the park was based on the California park and had many of the same attractions, there were parts of Magic Kingdom that the Imagineers made unique to the Florida park.
Since its opening day in the early 70’s, Magic Kingdom has gone through quite a few changes, but it has never lost that magical spark that keeps guests coming back year after year. Let’s look back at the development of “The Most Magical Place on Earth” from 1971 to today.
P A S T
When Magic Kingdom first opened, a ticket into the park was only $3.50 and guests had to purchase individual tickets to ride each attraction. Alcohol was also banned from being sold in the parks due to the goal of making a place the whole family could enjoy together. It held 23 attractions (20 of which were replicas of Disneyland attractions and 3 which were unique), and was broken up into 6 themed lands (5 replicas and 1 unique).
Adventureland: In 1971, park-goers could enjoy three attractions: Jungle Cruise, Tropical Serenade (eventually renamed The Enchanted Tiki Room) , and the Swiss Family Treehouse. Two years later, in December of 1973, an all-time favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean, was introduced to Adventureland as well. In 1998, The Enchanted Tiki Room was put under new management which added Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King to the show.
Frontierland: Over in the Wild West-themed section of the park there was the Country Bear Jamboree show and the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes (closed 1994). Then in 1973, Tom Sawyer’s Island was added. It wouldn’t be until 1980 that another attraction was added, a roller coaster called Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (the “wildest ride in the wilderness”!), and then Frontierland did not see another addition until 1992 when Splash Mountain made its debut.
Liberty Square: This was the only land in Magic Kingdom that had not been brought over from Disneyland. Liberty Square was based on eighteenth-century America and held replicas of both the Liberty Bell and the Liberty Tree. It had three attractions: The Haunted Mansion, the Mark Twain Riverboat, and the Hall of Presidents.
Fantasyland: This section had quite a few attractions when the park opened in 1971, including Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, It’s A Small World, Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel, and the Mad Tea Party. The land also held 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea but the ride closed down 23 years later in 1994. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was also present in the park until it was pushed out in 1998 to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, however, still stands in the Disneyland park.
Tomorrowland: when Tomorrowland opened with the rest of the park it was actually fairly empty. The only rides for guests to enjoy were the Grand Prix Raceway and the Skyway that lead to Fantasyland. However, the next few years brought many attractions such as the Astro Orbiters (1974), Space Mountain (1975), the Carousel of Progress (1975), and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (1975). The Omnimover-based dark ride, If You Had Wings, also opened in 1972, but was then closed and reopened as DreamFlight in 1989. DreamFlight lasted less than ten years before closing in 1998. Tomorrowland also held Mission to Mars, a show simulating a trip to the red planet, from 1975-1993 when it became ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter in 1995. This ride was one of Disney’s more intense Attractions and also lasted less than ten years before it was closed for good in 2003.
P R E S E N T
Much has changed in Magic Kingdom since guests took their first walk down Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle. For one, park tickets are no longer just a mere $3.50 (during peak season they can cost about $120 for an adult), and you no longer pay per ride. Instead of paper tickets, Disney parks now use magnetic cards or MagicBands. In 2012, the new Be Our Guest restaurant started selling wine and beer, and in 2016 several other restaurants in the park started selling alcohol as well. The lands all remain with their same theme, and while some have stayed the basically the same since their opening day, some have seen significant changes.
Adventureland: Rides such as Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean still remain, but in 2001 a new attraction was added to the lineup. That ride was Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, based off the 1992 film. The Enchanted Tiki Room also saw some changes when in 2011 a small fire broke out in the attic of the attraction and damaged the Iago animatronic. The show then returned to its previous format.
Fantasyland: In 2003, a 3D show called Mickey’s PhilharMagic opened and remains in Fantasyland today. From 2012-2014, the land saw a major refurbishment and Fantasyland nearly doubled in size. Snow White was taken out and is now a character Meet & Greet location, but she is still represented by the Seven Dwarves Mine Train roller coaster. There are now sub areas for Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Tangled. And Mickey’s Toontown Fair, which had opened in 1988, was removed completely to become Storybook Circus (with not one but two Dumbo rides).
Tomorrowland: While the Grand Prix still exists, it is now known as the Tomorrowland Speedway. Stitch’s Great Escape replaced Alien Encounter in 2004, but was not a fan favorite, and so it was later made a seasonal ride and only opens when the park is at its busiest. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, an interactive comedy show, was added in 2007 (the location previously held the Timekeeper film in the 90’s), and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin took over in place of DreamFlight. Tomorrowland still holds the guest favorites such as Space Mountain, PeopleMover, and Carousel of Progress.
F U T U R E
2017 & Beyond!
At the D23 Expo in July it was announced that the popular Disneyland Tokyo attraction, Tron Lightcycle Power Run, would make its way to Florida’s Magic Kingdom. To make room for this, the Tomorrowland Speedway will soon be taken out of the park. This is all set to take place before the park’s 50th anniversary in 2021. There are also plans for a theater to open on Main Street, one that will be based on the Willis Wood Theater in Kansas City.
While not many major changes have been announced for Magic Kingdom recently, I'm sure the Imagineers have a lot in store for its future and I cannot wait to see how Magic Kingdom develops over the next 45 years.
What do you love most about Magic Kingdom? Any attractions you really miss? Don't miss? Let us know below!