Saturday, March 14, 2015

Today's two-for-one special

To borrow an expression, “the only constant is change” is an apt phrase that can apply to Walt Disney World. Attractions, lands, restaurants all come and go, occasionally leaving behind a trail of metaphorical crumbs to guide us through the past. Today, we’re going to review a small corner of property that’s undergone significant change since opening day.

The Magic Kingdom’s gradual expansion of Fantasyland, dubbed New Fantasyland, was announced at the 2009 D23 Expo, and includes land formerly occupied by Mickey’s Toontown Fair and fallow property formerly occupied by one of Walt Disney World’s original E-Ticket attractions, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. This submarine voyage simulation, similar in size and scope to Disneyland’s 1959 addition Submarine Voyage, retraced Captain Nemo’s aquatic journey both through the lagoon, visible to Guests in the queue and around its perimeter, and an oversized show building, obscured by foliage, rock work and waterfalls, which hosted many of the sights featured in the attraction. It operated for over twenty years, from 1971 to 1994 when it was temporarily closed. Alas, the attraction’s longstanding weaknesses - low hourly ride capacity, slow loading, frequent ride breakdowns chief among them - finally caught up with it and Disney management shuttered the attraction for good.

This image, circa 1995, shows the lagoon still filled with water and the massive show building behind the tree line (on the far left is the it’s a small world show building, and on the right are the tents from Mickey’s Toontown Fair, the site repurposed from the ‘temporary’ Mickey’s Birthdayland originally set up in 1988).

(image courtesy Google Earth)

The lagoon was eventually drained of water and filled in and the show building removed. A tree line was stood up to hide the former property, and a small portion was modified into Pooh’s Playful Spot, a playground for restless children. Naturally, it was across from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, itself an attraction in the show building formerly occupied by Mr. Toad. This next image, from March 2005, shows the outline of the former lagoon and show building.
(image courtesy Google Earth)

So, what do to with this site? The Magic Kingdom is the smallest of the four Walt Disney World theme parks and its most popular. Fantasyland was expanded, functioning as a glade and hosting new eateries - Be Our Guest and Gaston’s Tavern, and new attractions and shows - Enchanted Tales with Belle, Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Sitting on the footprint of the former 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea now is the Little Mermaid attraction. The last entry to open in New Fantasyland is the Mine Train, a lateral replacement of the shuttered Snow White’s Scary Adventures, which yielded to Princess Fairytale Hall. New Fantasyland is now complete.
(image courtesy Google Earth)

Today, tributes to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Snow White’s Scary Adventures can be subtly found in New Fantasyland. When aligned, icons of both can be found along an upper sightline. A weather vane atop a building in Prince Eric’s castle features a squid, one of the notable antagonists from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film and the attraction. Just beyond it is a vulture found on the first lift of the Mine Train ride. The vulture is the former Audio-Animatronic previously featured in Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

Both of these original attractions are gone, but keepsakes and reminders remain.

But wait - there’s more. The iconic image from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is Captain Nemo’s submarine Nautilus, a terrifyingly original submarine designed by Disney Legend Harper Goff. His design influences for the sub include an alligator and shark - the green eyes and rough skin of the ‘gator and the imposing dorsal fin and tail of the shark led to the Nautilus’ unique appearance. An outline of the Nautilus could be found in a tree knot outline on the tree in Pooh’s Playful Spot. Presently, a larger outline of the Nautilus can be found in the rock work along the outside queue for the Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction.

For more information of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, visit this wonderful fan tribute site.

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