We’re going back…waaay back to 1981 through 1985 in this week’s countdown to the 55th anniversary of Disneyland park.
Certainly, one of the biggest transformations at Disneyland in this half decade is the re imagining of Fantasyland in 1983. Kim Irvine, Director, Concept and Show Design at Walt Disney Imagineering, worked on the Fantasyland project in 1983.
Kim recalls, “I have worked on many Disneyland projects in my 35+ years with Walt Disney Imagineering, but one of my all time favorites was the new Fantasyland in 1983. John Hench had spoken often of the little fairytale village that Herb Ryman had originally drawn for Fantasyland, but apparently time and budget had constrained it to the jousting tournament tent facades that were ultimately built. Finally, here we were, 27 years later, creating that village that Walt had hoped for! It is a delightful collection of European styles from the English Tudor of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Peter Pan’s Flight to the Tyrolean charm of Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Village Haus, but with lots of storybook charm and detail layered on top. Add King Arthur Carrousel in the middle and Dumbo the Flying Elephant in back, and you truly have a child’s fantasy world!
For a visual explanation of the changes to Fantasyland that Kim explains above, check out these photos of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride before and after the changes in 1983. (The photo on the left is from 1955, and the photo on the right shows how the attraction has looked since the changes in 1983).
1985 – Disneyland park’s 30th anniversary was celebrated in spectacular style. A gigantic machine called the Gift Giver Extraordinaire doled out thousands of prizes to guests as they entered the gates, including brand-new GM cars to every 30,000th guest; Disneyland park stayed open for a full 24 hours to mark the actual anniversary on July 17. A new version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln premiered on Main Street, U.S.A., complete with an advanced Audio-Animatronics figure. Videopolis opened, bringing teens and young adults a place to dance the night away to the latest popular tunes. And for the first time in the park’s history, Disneyland park began operating 365 days a year (before this time, the Park was closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the off-season).
1984 – This year was a grab bag of special events and activities. Summer Olympic fever spread from Los Angeles to Disneyland park, and the pre-games Olympic Night Charity Benefit on May 24 brought in $600,000 to Team U.S.A. During the games, the park hosted hundreds of athletes on Olympic Spirit Weekends. Donald Duck finally got his due with a 50th Birthday Parade. The Magic Eye Theater replaced the Space Stage in Tomorrowland and premiered EPCOT Center’s Magic Journeys 3D film. Elsewhere in Tomorrowland, Circle-Vision 360 reopened with two new breathtaking films: “American Journeys” and “Wonders of China.” The Country Bears received a special Christmas makeover for the first time, and the New Fantasyland was finally complete with the opening of the refurbished Alice in Wonderland attraction.
1983 – Fantasy reigned in 1983, as a whole new version of Fantasyland was unveiled in May. The new land cast aside its old facades of tournament tents and banners and became the Fantasyland of Walt Disney’s imagination: a quaint little fairy-tale village, where the denizens of Disney’s classic animated features lived and thrived. Old classics like Snow White’s Adventures and Peter Pan Flight remained, but with new technology, slightly altered names (they were now Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Peter Pan’s Flight), and brand-new facades that stressed the distinct cultural origins of each characters’ story. A new adventure, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, joined the group. The whole Park celebrated the new Fantasyland with the aptly titled Flights of Fantasy Parade.
1982 – When Disneyland park first opened, guests used tickets to gain admission to individual attractions. Those tickets eventually gave way to the A–E coupons, which could be used for multiple attractions. All tickets were retired in June of 1982 and replaced with the Passport – an all-encompassing ticket providing unlimited access to all attractions and shows (except the arcades). In Frontierland, Disney Legend Wally Boag hung up his carpet bag and officially retired from the Golden Horseshoe Revue after more than 39,000 performances. The SuperSpeed Tunnel along the PeopleMover route received a futuristic makeover and became the World of Tron, showing highlights from Disney’s big summer film release, “Tron,” on massive circular screens.
1981 – The New Fantasyland was still two years away, but a project on par with that one developed in small scale along the banks of Storybook Land in June, 1981. All of the original miniature buildings and scenery details built for the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in 1956 were removed and replaced with brand-new ones. Efforts were made to make the replicas as similar to the originals as possible, stressing even the most minute details. In this year, Disneyland park also welcomed its 200,000,000th guest: 26-year-old Gert Schelvis of Santa Barbara, California received a lifetime pass to Disneyland, as well as an assortment of goodies from the Park’s sponsors.
What do you think is most interesting about 1981-1985 at Disneyland park? If you have a favorite memory from these years, we want to hear that, too. Let us know in the comments.
This is the 6th post in this 11-part series. To find past posts, click on the “Countdown to 55” tag just below this post.