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I’m writing posts about my family’s 1971 trip to California and Disneyland. This post doesn’t really fit in the timeline, but I wanted to explore, more deeply, some British connections that I found. A handful of the attractions that we rode in Fantasyland were rooted in British literature. I had limited memories of them, so I used a little research to fill out my knowledge.
Four out of five of these rides were present on Opening Day of Disneyland, July 17, 1955. Most have undergone substantial refurbishment, since then, particularly in 1983 when Fantasyland as a whole was overhauled.
King Arthur Carrousel. I haven’t found any convincing reason why this carousel was themed to King Arthur.
The scenes decorating the middle of the carousel are from Sleeping Beauty, which isn’t a story related to King Arthur.
There used to be a Sword in the Stone ceremony near the carousel each day, but that would have started in 1963 after The Sword in the Stone animated feature was released. Walt Disney had owned film rights to T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone novel since 1939. But he didn’t greenlight the production until after seeing Camelot on Broadway in 1960.
Maybe it’s just a case of “Why not?” It’s well known that Walt Disney wanted all jumping horses on his carousel rather than the usual mix of zoo animals, some of them stationery. Once you’ve removed the zoo animals, a King Arthur theme works well.
Peter Pan’s Flight. Of course, this ride began with the play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J.M Barrie which he later adapted into a novel, originally published as Peter and Wendy. The Disney animated film, Peter Pan, was released in 1953, just two years before the opening of Disneyland.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. This attraction was originally conceived as a roller coaster, but Walt Disney wanted rides to be appropriate for all ages, even the very young and the very old. Guests ride as Mr. Toad reproducing (but only very loosely) the wild ride after he steals a motorcar from the Disney film, Mr. Toad, based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Mad Tea Party and Alice in Wonderland. Both of these, of course, are themed to the 1951 Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland, based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. The Mad Tea Party is a ride of spinning cups, celebrating unbirthdays. The Alice in Wonderland ride was added to Fantasyland in 1958. Guests enter “caterpillar cars” for a ride through the zany scenes that Alice encounters in Wonderland.
Have you been on these rides?