The success of early Disney animated feature films is due in large part to the fairy tales that many of those movies were based on. Fantasyland is in a lot of ways a physical culmination of those stories. The one at the original Disneyland in California particularly serves as Walt Disney’s tribute to the genre he so loves, and Fantasylands made since his passing have been Imagineers' attempts to recreate that magic. Here is a look at the original Fantasyland and the ones that followed, in the form of five facts about the theme park land.
1. Fantasyland was (possibly) Walt Disney’s favorite land
This was mentioned in the title, but it bears repeating that many believed that Walt’s favorite part of Disneyland was Fantasyland. When describing it he famously said, "What youngster has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice's nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone's youth have become realities for youngsters - of all ages - to participate in." Fantasyland also, perhaps unsurprisingly, includes one of the best (in my opinion, at least) theme park dedications.
Here is a land of imagination, hopes and dreams. In this timeless land of enchantment the age of chivalry, magic and make-believe are reborn and fairy tales come true. Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart, to those who believe that when you wish upon a star your dreams do come true.
—Walter E. Disney, July 17, 1955
That dedication has inspired millions over the years, and should serve as a constant reminder to the people who develop Disney parks and the people who visit them why Fantasyland is such as essential part of all the Disney parks and the legacy of Walt Disney himself.
2. Disneyland ’s Fantasyland went through a major facelift in 1983
The biggest change to the original Disneyland’s Fantasyland was in 1983, with what was referred to as “New Fantasyland.” It involved the addition of new attractions and renovations to the old ones, as well as a major moving of many of the rides to different locations within the land.
Disney saw a surge in popularity for Disneyland in the 80s, which was what led to to expansion. Another reason for the change was that, even though Fantasyland was Walt’s favorite, he was never quite satisfied with it because it was created in a rush and for less money than was really needed. The Imagineers felt a strong need to flesh the land out in tribute to Walt Disney.
The most extreme shift with New Fantasyland was the transition from a Renaissance theme to the look of a fantastical Bavarian village. Bavaria is a federal state in German which went through a fascinating line of leaders from before the Middle Ages to present day. Look above at a tabard of the coat of arms from around 1510.