The Quick 10: 10 Magic Kingdom Attractions and Their Secrets
It was on this day in 1971 that Walt Disney World in Florida opened up to the public. It might not mean much to some of you, but I'm pretty grateful that it opened "“ I was born to a Disney-holic mom so I took many a family vacation to Florida just to spend a few days at Disney. In fact, my first trip was when I was not even a year old. That's a good 18 hours in the car (we never flew, oh no). Luckily, I'm an only child, so I had the whole backseat to myself all of those years. No fighting over someone crossing the invisible line that divided the backseat territory or anything like that. My parents spent a lot of time yelling at me to get my nose of out my books and pay attention to the scenery, but to no avail. To this day, I have no idea what Tennessee looks like (I'm kidding).
Anyway, to show my appreciation for the creation of Disney World, today's Q10 is trivia about the Magic Kingdom, which is the WDW park that actually opened on this date. The other parks that comprise Walt Disney World are EPCOT, which opened on October 1, 1982; Disney-MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios), which opened on May 1, 1989; and Disney's Animal Kingdom, which opened on April 22, 1998.
1. Cinderella Castle is what most people think of when they think of the Magic Kingdom. It's an amalgam of several different castles, but most sources cite Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria as the main inspiration. It's 189 feet tall, which is more than twice the size of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland (77 feet tall). I'm outing myself as a huge Disney geek here, but oh well: Disneyphiles like to stump one another by asking, "How many bricks were used to build Cinderella Castle?" But any self-respecting Disney buff knows the answer: None. The castle is only made to look brick. The castle is redecorated from time to time, and I was there for one of the most hideous transformations ever "“ in 1996, Imagineers made the castle look like a birthday cake to celebrate the 25th anniversary. It gave me a toothache just looking at it. Picture from Wikipedia user Ciccone39.
2. Walt was into the railroad, big-time. He even built a miniature steam railroad in his back yard. So, it makes sense that special attention was given to the Walt Disney World Railroad, the steam-powered railroad that takes you around the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom. There are four trains, named the Walter E. Disney, the Lily Belle (After Walt's wife), the Roger E. Broggie (he helped acquire the trains) and the Roy O. Disney (Walt's brother). It takes three people to run each train: the conductor, of course, the engineer, and a fireman.
3. Liberty Square is probably my favorite part of the Magic Kingdom "“ we'll get to why in a minute. It's small but packed full with details "“ if you look in the upstairs window of the House of Burgesses, you'll see lanterns that symbolize Paul Revere's "One if by land, two if by sea". The replica of the Liberty Bell was actually cast from the mold of the real Liberty Bell in Philly; it's the only other bell ever to be cast from that mold. There are 13 lanterns in the Liberty Tree, which represent the 13 colonies, and the Liberty Tree is an actual 100-year-old oak tree that has been grafted with a younger oak. I've read that there are buildings and architectural elements that represent each of the 13 colonies, but I can't vouch for that "“ I guess I'll have to pay more attention when I am there in three weeks!
4. Liberty Square is my favorite land because it's home to the Haunted Mansion.
I could make a whole post out of the Haunted Mansion (and perhaps I will, closer to Halloween), but I'll stick to this for now: Paul Frees, who is the voice of your Ghost Host at the Mansion, was also the voice of lots of other beloved characters: John Lennon and George Harrison in the Beatles cartoon, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Toucan Sam (also voiced at other times by Mel Blanc and Maurice LaMarche), and Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle. I'm amazed at how people can make their voices sound so different.
If you've never experienced the ride, here you go:
5. Cinderella's Golden Carousel in Fantasyland was made by the most prestigious carousel company in the States "“ the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. But it wasn't made specifically for Disney. Nope, Walt bought it from the Olympic Park in New Jersey when it closed in 1967. There are 90 horses, all maintained by one woman who hand-paints each one with unique patterns and color schemes. If you snag the horse that has a golden bow on its tail, you're in luck "“ that's said to be the horse of Cinderella herself.
6. Out of the 289 dolls that you'll find on "it's a small world", only two of them are American "“ and you won't find either bedecked in red, white and blue. One is a cowboy and one is Inuit.
7. The Carousel of Progress is an attraction in Tomorrowland that is often overlooked because people are rushing to get to more exciting rides such as Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. But it's a nice, relaxing attraction that features the voice of one of the best narrators of all time: Jean Shepherd. Who? He's the narrator of A Christmas Story (and author of the book it was based on). In the Carousel of Progress, he plays the dad. One of the grandmas is voiced by Judy Jetson (Janet Waldo) and Debi Derryberry, who voices the daughter, is also the voice of Jimmy Neutron.
8. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a crazy roller coaster trip through the Old West "“ and those artifacts you see scattered throughout the ride are real. Disney bought pieces such as a double-stamp ore crusher, an ore-hauling wagon and an old ball mill at auctions.
9. The Swiss Family Treehouse is another attraction that I think goes overlooked a lot. It's a super-detailed replica of the tree the Swiss Family Robinson lived in. To support its 60-foot height, the structure goes 42 feet below ground. The 330,000 leaves might look real, but they aren't "“ they are polyethylene. The whole thing weighs more than 200 tons.
10. Much to my chagrin, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh replaced Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in 1999. But if you pay enough attention during the ride, you can still catch a glimpse of old Toadie "“ at the very beginning of the ride, you'll see some picture frames. Check them out "“ one of them is Mr. Toad handing off the deed to the attraction to Owl from Winnie the Pooh.
If you're more loyal to Disneyland in California, never fear: I did a Q10 on it in July, the anniversary of its opening.