A writer examines the history of Walt Disney’s creation and the decades of fun at places like Frontierland and Fantasyland.
Disneyland opened in 1955 with 18 attractions that included 10 major rides, all of which are, surprisingly, still working today: Autopia, Disneyland Railroad, Jungle Cruise, King Arthur Carrousel, Mad Tea Party (the teacups), Mark Twain Riverboat, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Scary Adventures, and Storybook Land Canal Boats. For the park's golden anniversary, VIA shares its favorites, plus a few predictions of rides that will be classics in 2055.
"Children love emulating adults," says Tim O'Brien, former senior editor atAmusement Business magazine, of this classic attraction that gives pint-size motorists license to drive. "Walt gave kids the chance to do something they can't do anywhere else."
Amusement park trains existed before Disney-land, but Walt's railroad, with its authentic steam engines, set the standard and reflected his love for the rails. (He had a one-eighth-scale train outside his Holmby Hills home.)
Walt originally wanted to feature live animals, but dropped the idea (after realizing that most jungle beasts were nocturnal) in favor of mechanical hippos and lions that anticipated groundbreaking audio-animatronic technology.
KING ARTHUR CARROUSEL
The 72 leaping steeds were hand carved in Germany more than a century ago. This merry-go-round also pays tribute to the carousel at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, where Walt would take his daughters and dream up ideas for his prospective empire.
PETER PAN'S FLIGHT
This "dark ride" (one that moves through an indoor environment) is Disney storytelling at its best, complete with a scaled-down London skyline, fiber-optic stars, and flying pirate ships (it's the pixie dust!). "The suspension of dis-belief is an essential part of the whole experience," says Marty Sklar, principal creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Even a perennial favorite needs new magic from time to time, Sklar says. This attraction opened in 1969 but has just been retooled with updated gags and special effects. Look for Madame Leota's brand-new crystal ball.
INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE
Imagineers designed a sophisticated, trackless ride system with computer-controlled vehicles that ensures no two rides are exactly alike.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD
Originally created for the 1964 New York World's Fair, Small World makes the case for the power of great storytelling, masterful details, and a maddeningly catchy song you'll be humming all day (if it isn't stuck in your head already).
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
The audio-animatronic technology blew everyone away when it debuted in 1967. Fussy attention to detail (down to the hair on the pirates' legs) makes this the best dark ride around. "There are more things going on than you can possibly see in one ride-through," Sklar says.
An indoor roller coaster that will endure the test of time despite the breakneck changes in ride technology, it relaunches in July after a two-year makeover. "We don't do rides just for the sake of thrills," Sklar says. "Technology will always change, but we're in the business of telling a good story."
Photography courtesy of Disneyland
This article was first published in July 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.