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Sixty Years of Innovation: New Fantasyland at Disneyland Park

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Disney Parks are more than exciting attractions and dazzling spectaculars. Walking into a place like Fantasyland, for example, is like walking into another world. As each of our guests are reminded, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.” Let’s go back to the year 1983 to discover how the fantasy of Fantasyland was enriched here at Disneyland park.

Walt Disney’s favorite land, Fantasyland was envisioned as a fairy tale village beyond the walls of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Unfortunately, as the opening of Disneyland drew near, unforeseen budget overages caused the team to scale back on the design of Fantasyland. So the land became a medieval fair, with banners and flags decorating the entrances to Snow White’s Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.


Nearly thirty years later, the time had finally come to transform Fantasyland into that timeless land of enchantment that Walt had dreamed of. “The New Fantasyland” opened at Disneyland on May 25, 1983. The architecture and facade of each attraction became an extension of the stories that lie within. Guests now enter Peter Pan’s Flight through a medieval English clock tower or visit a country manor called Toad Hall, home to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. On the west side of Fantasyland, you have the feeling of being immersed in a Bavarian or Alpine village, bringing you into the worlds of Snow White and Pinocchio. Next door at Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, the attraction’s facade features half-timbered architecture and carved wood balconies, resembling the house in which Pinocchio, the wooden puppet made of pine, became a real boy.


“The New Fantasyland” elevated the storytelling of the entire area, combining architecture, horticulture and other details to create an immersive, fairy tale environment and became an example of what Walt Disney Imagineering often refers to as “place making” – the design and creation of a land that transports the guest to a different place and time, truly immersing them in the story and fantasy of the land.


And nearly 30 years after “The New Fantasyland” at Disneyland park, this immersive storytelling was brought to another level with New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom park. The largest expansion in the park’s history, New Fantasyland welcomes guests to step into the stories of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Dumbo.” It is a shining example of how Disney Parks continue the legacy of innovative, immersive storytelling that was established with the opening of Disneyland park in 1955 and carried on with “The New Fantasyland” in 1983 and beyond.


  • But of course Erin 🙂

  • @Erin. This is getting harder to do each decade– too much innovation to choose from! I’ll go with Fantasmic! for the 90s. This nighttime show was innovative in its blending of fireworks, waterworks, animation and live action, so innovative in fact that it’s still running (and very popular) today! This show created a new category of entertainment for Disney, namely a night time spectacular, and was the forerunner for World of Color, the Osborne Spectacle of Lights (at WDW), and the upcoming evening show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (my runners up would have been Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye and Toontown!).

    • May I quote you on that, Dustin? 🙂

  • That “place making” is something none of the other theme parks in California can even come close to. That’s why I love Disneyland Resort so much!

  • I got a chance to visit the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom last year, and it blew me away. Everything from the Beast’s Castle to Prince Eric’s and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train just made it feel like we were completely immersed in the worlds of some of Disney’s most classic stories.

    Being someone more often in the vicinity of Disneyland Resort, and thus a more regular visitor there, this was also a good reminder of how much the two resorts differ, so that it’s worth paying visits to both. So, those of you who’ve been to WDW but not DL, or DL but not WDW, I hope you get a chance to see all that the other has to offer!

    I especially appreciated that Disney’s imagineers made improvements to The Little Mermaid (on both coasts) in response to guests’ feedback about the lighting. It really means a lot to know that Disney listens carefully to its guests, and make efforts to continue improving things based on guest feedback!

  • This should have been taken into consideration when filming Saving Mr. Banks.

  • Doh! My first miss! Great post though Erin, I especially like the sliding lever that shows pre-post New Fantasyland. Shall I try for the ’90s? Need to recover my form!

    • Sorry to break your streak! Let’s see if you can get back on track for the 90s. 🙂

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