Down Under Disney

The Australian Guide to Disney Parks

The Australian Guide to Disney Parks

Fantasyland: Promo Central

Exploring Fantasyland for the first time is a little surreal. For years you have been shown advertisements featuring Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the Tea Cups, King Arthur’s Carousel and Dumbo. Now it’s suddenly a reality. I liken it to how people feel when walking through New York or London. You’ve seen them so many times in movies and TV shows that you almost know it like the back of your hand. In Fantasyland you will find 12 main attractions, including the aforementioned classics, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, It’s a Small World and plenty of dark rides. The best part of Fantasyland is anyone can go on any ride (except The Matterhorn) so it is super Family Friendly.

Note: Aside from The Matterhorn Bobsleds and It’s a Small World, I will not go through the Fantasyland rides in as much detail as others. This is because there are a lot of them and they are more simplistic.

 

The Matterhorn Bobsleds

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The Matterhorn. Image from Disneyland

 

Attraction Specifications

– Ride Type: Steel Roller Coaster

– Height Requirements: 107cm

– Attraction Duration: 2 mins 30 seconds

– Height: 45 Metres

– Max Speed: 43km/h

– Area: Fantasyland

– Fastpass: Yes

-Rider Switch: Yes

– Year Opened: 1959

– Recommendation: Unmissable (but a bit rough/bumpy)

– Hours: Open-Close

– Average Queue Time: 30-45 minutes

 

Ride Overview

Can’t make it to Switzerland for your dream snow holiday? Disneyland has you covered. Kill two birds with one stone, as you hurtle down the tracks of a 1:100th scaled replica of Matterhorn Mountain, in a bobsled.  Just be careful of the Yeti.

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The Real Matterhorn Mountain.

The Matterhorn Mountain Bobsleds, was Disneyland’s first thrill ride and the first steel tracked roller coaster ever built. Despite Walt’s initial protestations about adding a thrill ride to his park, he eventually caved with the assurance that it would be nothing like his competitors and would bring the teen market to the park. Walt and his Imagineers also saw it as a good opportunity to hide the largest/ugliest chairlift pylon (Which no longer exists).

 

Ride Description

When entering the main queue for this ride you are greeted with the cheerful yodels of Swiss mountain folk in what looks like a ski lift station. You then proceed to board the four person sleds and ascend a chain lift hill. Here you see, through reflections in the ice, the movement and sounds of a monstrous creature. Tension builds.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain scattered in the snow are old bobsleds and a chair lift carriage (Homages to past ride vehicles and the extinct sky way chair lift), presumably destroyed by the creature.  Then, as you begin your descent the animatronic yeti appears. It roars menacingly as you bank away and continue on your downhill journey.

For much of the rest of the ride you continue at speed banking left and right and up and down, until you come across the yeti one last time. From here you splash down into a water crossing (you don’t get wet) and come to a slow stop.

 

Verdict

The Matterhorn, like Big Thunder Mountain, is very much one of those “Gateway Coasters”. It is fun but isn’t the most thrilling roller coaster. I personally love it. From it’s history to it’s theming, it is just a classic, must do, Disneyland ride. As a warning though, due to it’s age (and despite track and ride vehicle upgrades) your descent down this ride is quite rough and bumpy but if you can handle the Scenic Railway at Luna Park in Melbourne, then this is a a non-issue.

Fun Facts: 1. In it’s early days Disney hired mountain climbers to scale the peak of The Matterhorn. While it is rare, this tradition continues to this day.

2. If you have ever heard the rumour of a basketball court existing within the Mountain, it’s all true! There is a small half sized basketball court, previously used as part of an employees break room. You do not see any sign of this on your travels though.

3. The Mountain itself towers over Disneyland standing at 45 metres. It has remained the Park’s tallest structure since its opening in 1959.

4.  The Matterhorn actually has two separate tracks. There is much debate about which side is best but to be honest, there isn’t that much difference, so don’t stress.

 

Spoiler Alert: Please find below a POV of the Matterhorn thanks to Theme Park World Wide.

 

 

It’s a Small World

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Beautiful exterior of It’s a Small World. Image from Disneyland

 

Attractions’ Specifications

– Ride Type: Gentle Boat Ride

– Height Requirements: No

– Attraction Duration: 15 Minutes

– Area: Fantasyland

– Fastpass: Yes

-Rider Switch: No

– Year Opened: 1966

– Recommendation: Probably should do!

– Hours: Open-Close

– Average Queue Time: 40 Minutes

 

Ride Overview

It’s a Small World is a gentle boat ride that takes you around the world in 15 minutes.

Before ending up at Disneyland, the It’s a Small World boat ride was originally created for 1964/65 World’s Fair in New York. The attraction was set up at the UNICEF Pavilion and aimed to promote peace and harmony in the world, through song and audio-animatronic children.  During it’s year long run at the Fair, It’s a Small World  played host to over 10 million visitors. With such a resounding reception, Walt brought it back piece by piece to Disneyland, reopening the attraction in 1966 with a brand new facade.

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World’s Fair, New York 1964-65

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Present Day Facade.

 

Ride Description

Described as the Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed you may think “Hey a ride on Small World sounds grand!” And it is, in a way.

You sail passed the playfully animated facade and head into the show building. All good so far. Sailing on, the walls become a cacophony of colour and culture as animatronic dolls, from myriad countries, sing the infamous theme, written by the Sherman Brothers. You even start singing along in the chorus.

It’s then you realise the nightmare you have entered into. The song doesn’t end for the entire ride! In fact aside from costume differences and a few changes to the cultural stereotypes nothing really changes. Now the reason why Scar told Zazu, to stop this overly catchy tune,  becomes much clearer.

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Verdict

I’m probably being a little harsh on It’s a Small World. It is actually loved by many and the facade really is great (especially when lit up at Christmas). Perhaps if it went for 5 or even 10 minutes it would be fine. But 15 minutes is far too long for an attraction like this. I’ve got it down as a should do because I think it’s still important to at least try it, especially if you have kids. Who knows, you might have a completely different experience to me!

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Australia in the Eyes of America. Photo by Javier Doren

 

Fantasyland Dark Rides

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Opening Day: Fantasyland and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. Sourced from Disneyland.

 

Attractions’ Specifications

– Ride Type: Slow Moving Dark Ride

– Height Requirements: No

– Attraction Duration: Ranging from 2-4 Minutes (Depending on Ride)

– Area: Fantasyland

– Fastpass: No

-Rider Switch: No

– Year Opened: Snow White (1955), Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (1955), Peter Pan’s Flight (1955), Alice in Wonderland (1958), Pinocchio (1983, with the renovation of Fantasyland)

– Recommendation: Must do one or two!

– Hours: Open-Close (Some rides may be affected by Fireworks)

– Average Queue Time: 20 Minutes (Except Peter Pan’s Flight: 45-60 Minutes)

 

Ride Overviews/Descriptions/Verdicts

A Disneyland Dark Ride, if you have not figured out from previous posts, is simply an indoor ride, on a predominantly slow moving vehicle. It usually includes animatronics and other effects to take riders through a familiar story.

 

Snow White’s Scary Adventure

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The Facade of Snow White’s Scary Adventure: Picture from Mouse Troop.

 

An original opening day attraction. Snow White’s Scary Adventure takes you through scenes from the latter half of the film. The “Scary” parts. The ride vehicles are shaped as the seven Dwarfs beds with the names of each Dwarf engraved on the front.

I’m not going to sugar coat this attraction too much. It’s not great. For nostalgia’s sake you can do it but definitely not more than once.

Note: Some scenes may frighten young children but if they can handle Pirates/Haunted Mansion, it’s a walk in the park.

 

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride

The Facade of Mr Toad’s Wild Ride has changed a lot since opening day! Picture from Disneyland.

 

Another opening day attraction, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride is based on Disney’s adaption of The Wind in the Willows. Sit in one of Toady’s infamous automobiles, as you weave in and out to avoid obstacles. Plenty of sight gags on this attraction, with moving walls and sharp, albeit slowish, turns.

While definitely a lot more exciting than Snow White, a ride with Mr Toad is not an essential Fantasyland Dark Ride. Only do once if you feel it’s necessary.

 

Peter Pan’s Flight

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Peter Pan’s Flight is set underneath an old English style clock tower. Picture from Theme Park Review

 

By far the most popular Dark Ride in Fantasyland, Peter Pan’s Flight is the one you will have to do. Hop on board a pirate ship and soar over miniature scenes from the movie. The idea and execution of this ride is very clever especially considering it too is an opening day attraction. Highlights include the flight over London and Neverland.

Put simply, Peter Pan is the best of the five Dark Rides and shouldn’t be missed. The only issue is that the line is often quite long (in peak times 60 minutes). With no Fastpass facility in place, it may be an idea to go at night time or first thing in the morning.

 

Spoiler Alert: Below is the POV of Peter Pan’s Flight. Notice how the ride vehicles suspend from the track above. Video courtesy of SoCal Attractions 360.

 

Alice in Wonderland

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Alice in Wonderland is layed out over two levels. Picture Sourced from Dezithinks.

 

The only Dark Ride in Fantasyland over two stories and to feature a section outside of the show building, Alice in Wonderland is a whimsical adventure through the Lewis Carol and Disney classic. Lots of visual effects adorn the walls as you travel in your caterpillar vehicle, meeting your favourite characters and escaping the clutches of the Queen of Hearts.

Again this is not a must do attraction, however, I found it more enjoyable than Snow White and Mr Toad because of its point of difference. Probably the best dark ride for younger children.

 

Pinocchio’s Daring Journey

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The Colourful Entry to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. Picture thanks to Disneyland

Extremely similar to Snow White, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey was the last Dark Ride opened in Fantasyland (1983). Given it’s relative newness you would expect a bit more from this attraction, however, the other rides were also revamped in 1983, so is very similar. The ride, vehicles look like hand carved cars, which take you through animatronic reproductions of scenes from Pinocchio, including Gepetto’s Workshop and the Carnival.

Don’t waste too much time on this ride unless you’re keen to do every single attraction that Disneyland has to offer.

Top Tip (Fantasyland Dark Rides): The best thing you can do with these Dark Rides is to choose two of them. My recommendations are Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice in Wonderland. This will enable you to experience these classic Disney attractions without feeling robbed of your time.

 

Note: Please remember these are just recommendations to maximise your time at the Disneyland Resort. Feel free to ignore them and do whatever you feel suits you and your party.

 

The Mad Tea Party/Dumbo the Flying Elephant

 

Attractions’ Specifications

– Ride Type: Spinning Carnival Rides

– Height Requirements: No

– Attraction Duration: Ranging from 2-4 Minutes (Depending on your ride operator)

– Area: Fantasyland

– Fastpass: No

-Rider Switch: No

– Year Opened: Both 1955 (Dumbo, one Month after Opening Day)

– Recommendation: Do!

– Hours: Open-Close (Some rides may be affected by Fireworks)

– Average Queue Time: 20-30 Minutes (Dumbo) 30-40 Minutes (Tea Cups)

 

Ride Overviews/Descriptions/Verdicts

 

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

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Control how high you want to go on this classic Disneyland ride! Image courtesy of Disneyland

 

Put simply, Dumbo is a gentle, spinning carnival ride that probably doesn’t need too much of an introduction or description. Hop onto your Dumbo shaped seat and as the ride spins use the lever in front of you to move yourself up and down.

I really enjoy the intricate and artistic detail of this ride’s theming. It’s a simple concept but great for kids. You can even take your 10 month old on if you wish…

 

I say it again. You really can take your kids (no matter how old) on heaps of attractions!

 

Mad Tea Party

If Dumbo didn’t need much of an introduction then this needs none. Everyone knows the tea cup ride at Disney. What you may not know is that you can control how fast your individual tea cup spins by turning the wheel in the centre. This allows for less vomitous material exiting your mouth. (If you are prone to that sort of thing.)

You just have to do this ride whether you’re 1 or 101. It’s an absolute must despite its simplicity.

Just so many baby friendly rides!

 

Story Book Canal Boats

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Begin your journey by entering the mouth of Monstro the Whale. Photo Courtesy of Disneyland.

 

Attractions’ Specifications

– Ride Type: Gentle Water Ride/Interactive

– Height Requirements: No

– Attraction Duration: 6 Minutes

– Area: Fantasyland

– Fastpass: No

-Rider Switch: No

– Year Opened: 1955

– Recommendation: Should do

– Hours: Open-Close (May be affected by fireworks)

– Average Queue Time: 30 Minutes

 

Ride Overview/Description/Verdict

Combining Walt Disney’s love of dioramas and story telling, The Story Book Canal Boats take you on a guided tour, through miniatures of scenes from beloved fairy-tales. The boats themselves look a bit like something you would use to get around in Venice (not Gondolas), fitting about 8-10 people plus your guide. Highlights include: Entering the Whale tunnel, Aladdin’s Palace, the Arendelle Castle and the beautiful landscaping. I also enjoy it when the Casey Junior Circus Train chuffs by, adding more atmosphere.

It’s quite nice floating through and seeing the artistry of these dioramas but your enjoyment of this ride will depend on the personality of your guide. Some are quite drone like and boring, simply following their script, while others improvise, making it more interesting. Not the best attraction out there but good enough for all to enjoy.

 

Casey Junior Circus Train

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All Aboard the Casey Junior Circus Train! Image Courtesy of Undercover Tourist

 

Attractions’ Specifications

– Ride Type: Themed Train

– Height Requirements: No

– Attraction Duration: 3 Minutes

– Area: Fantasyland

– Fastpass: No

-Rider Switch: No

– Year Opened: 1955

– Recommendation: Not essential

– Hours: Open-Close (May be affected by fireworks)

– Average Queue Time: 30 Minutes

 

Ride Overview/Description/Verdict

The Casey Junior Circus Train, is a great little ride themed to the train from Dumbo. It takes you alongside the story book canals, through tunnels and over bridges, all while the famous Casey Junior Theme plays. At one point it even chuffs up the hill chanting “I think I can, I think I can.”

I loved Dumbo as a kid so I will try to leave my bias out of my appraisal. I enjoyed it because of the nostalgia factor and theming but at the end of the day it’s a train ride so not really essential.

 

King Arthur Carousel

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King Arthur Carousel: Pride of Place at the centre of Fantasyland. Image courtesy of Disneyland

 

Ride Overview/Verdict

If Disney was all started by a mouse, then Disneyland was all started by a carousel. It was while Walt was watching his children on a carousel in Griffith Park, LA, that the need for a large scale themed park for families, first came to him. It comes as no surprise then that a grand carousel would have to feature prominently in Disneyland.

The King Arthur Carousel is a classic Merry-go-Round attraction, originally built in 1875 and refurbished for Disneyland in 1955. It is the first attraction you see as you enter Fantasyland from the Castle, setting the perfect mood for the area. Unlike most carousels in the world, Walt demanded that every single horse be a “jumper”. In other words every one of the 68 horses is modeled to look like it is in motion.  There is also one stationary chariot style bench for wheelchair access but no other type of animal. The soundtrack that plays on your cyclonic, 2 minute trip is simply organ style renditions of Disney songs.

A carousel is a carousel. Young children will love it but for everyone else it simply provides a great atmosphere and, in this case, historic charm.

 

 Fantasyland Finale

3000 Words later and there you have all 12 attractions of Fantasyland! If you made it through this thesis then Congratulations, if you only skim read, then I don’t blame you! I hope you found it informative!

Next up we meet the folks from Toon Town!

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