When Walt Disney envisioned the Happiest Place on Earth, one themed land in particular warmed his heart. As an illustrator, he was in the business of imagination. He’d think of things and then bring them to life with his drawings. When he started making movies, he chose a classic fairytale by the Brothers Grimm for his first production.
Uncle Walt always loved fantasy. When he constructed Disneyland, he carried that philosophy over to the park. There, he built an entire land based on beloved stories. You’ve visited it many times, but you may not know some of its history. Here are five fun facts about Fantasyland.
Walt’s favorite themed land
"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."
These words gushed out of Walt Disney’s mouth as he described his vision for Fantasyland. In selecting the rides at the various themed lands, Disney kept coming back to Fantasyland. It was the place where imagination was the only limit in construction, a concept that the park founder eventually expanded to all of Disneyland when he said:
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
For all of the wonders of Tomorrowland and Adventureland in particular, the opening of Disneyland was always predicated around the joy of Fantasyland, the place where fantasy and reality joined thanks to the willpower of Uncle Walt.
The largest expansion
When Walt Disney World debuted in 1971, Disneyland started to look a bit aged. People always embrace the shiny, new thing, often at the expense of the comfortable older thing. Seeking to restore some of the luster of the Happiest Place on Earth, Imagineers decided to update their facilities in 1983.
As a tribute to the place that their founder loved, Fantasyland enjoyed most of the rejuvenation. This area received the largest themed land expansion in the history of the park up to that point. Due to the massive restructuring of the area, Disney even renamed it as New Fantasyland and yes, we’ll discuss how history repeated itself in just a moment.
The major change in appearance at New Fantasyland was in the style of the buildings. Originally, they had a Renaissance style, as that was the 1950s perception of a land of fantasy. In the early 1980s, Disney went a different way, altering the appearance to that of a Bavarian village.
The first fireworks display
I previously wrote a detailed description of how fireworks became a thing at Disneyland and other theme parks. What I didn’t mention at the time is something that’s fascinating for this discussion. Fantasyland was the first themed land to host a fireworks exhibition at a Disney themed land.
Imagineers chose this location for the sake of convenience. The entrance to the land connects directly to Sleeping Beauty Castle. In fact, Disney’s even offers a tour of this area that dates to 1957, one year prior to the first true fireworks show at Disneyland.
The timing isn’t coincidental. Park planners wanted to entice guests to spend a full day at Disneyland rather than leave early. To exit the park, they were likely to walk past Fantasyland and/or Sleeping Beauty Castle. The new tour and fireworks exhibitions were ways to persuade visitors not to leave just yet. Magic Kingdom later duplicated this methodology with Cinderella Castle and parts of Fantasyland.