MiceChatters, it’s been quite a year. Through ups and downs, you’ve followed our duels. Sometimes, Disneyland won. Othertimes, it was Walt Disney World. But most of the time, it was Disneyland Paris. However, today’s column marks the final Dueling Disney of 2013, where for one final time, Disneyland and Walt Disney World (and two best friends) step into the ring and fight (to the death!) to see who reigns supreme. We’ve covered a wide range of topics from the very beginning, but now the time has come to put the issue to bed. Which resort reigns supreme?
(As usual, Keith is representing Disneyland, while Jeff represents Walt Disney World)
Topic 25: Disneyland vs. The Magic Kingdom
Keith: Dear, sweet, innocent Jeff. I hope you’re ready for one last whooping! Because this one is about to get ugly.
Jeff: Ugly? We’ve been looking at you for the last year, it can’t get much uglier than that! OOOOH SLOW BURN THAT I’VE WAITED ALL YEAR TO USE SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS DUEL!
Sorry, that was childish of me. Carry on, ugly.
“Walt Disney Make-Believe Land Project Planned Here” was the headline on the March 27, 1952 edition of the Burbank Daily Review. It was the first public announcement of Walt’s intention to build a “Disney Land”, originally planned for a 16-acre plot of land on Riverside Drive, next door to the Disney Studio. “I lived on Riverside Drive back then,” Disney artist John Hench recalled, “and I remember several Sundays seeing Walt across the street where he first thought of putting the Park. And I’d see him out there, stepping things off, in the weed filled lot, standing, visualizing, all by himself. I knew what he was doing.”
Walt had big plans for his little park. “Disneyland will be something of a fair, an exhibition, a playground, a community center, a museum of living facts and a showplace of beauty and magic,” he said. Both children and adults were going to be able to enjoy a zoo of miniature animals, scenes of Americana, rides in a “space ship”, a submarine, and more. In fact, Walt’s plans got bigger and bigger, and the amount of available land would ultimately be one of the reasons why he decided to take his “Make-Believe Land Project” a little farther south.
Jeff: In October 1965, the Orlando Sentinel ran with the headline: “It’s Official: This is Disney’s Land.” After months of public speculation as to who was buying up a lot of Florida’s swamp land, the cat was finally out of the bag. Soon after, on November 15, 1965, Walt Disney, Roy Disney, and Florida Governor Hayden Burns held a press conference at the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando to address the world. The sign at the front of the room read “Florida Welcomes Walt Disney.” Not only that, but the embraced him with open arms.
Even though Disneyland was a fantastic achievement, Walt had even bigger plans for Disney World. “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland…the blessing of size. There’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.” And imagine he did. With almost unlimited space to create whatever his mind could come up with, Walt could do practically anything he wanted.
Of course, at the time, the entire crutch of The Florida Project was to ultimately construct E.P.C.O.T., the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.
Keith: I heart E.P.C.O.T.
On a Saturday morning in late 1953, Walt telephoned artist Herb Ryman and asked him to come to the studio. Ryman came right away, and the two sat in Walt’s office. It was there that Walt told Ryman about his plans to build a huge amusement park, much bigger than the tiny park he had dreamt up for the modest Burbank lot. He indicated how Roy was going to New York on Monday morning, in an attempt to secure the funding. “He’s got a meeting with the boys with the money,” Walt stated. “We’re going to need millions. Roy wants to take a rendering of Disneyland with him to show the investors.”
“Good idea,” replied Ryman. “Can I see the rendering?”
“You’re going to draw it, Herbie.”
Ryman was stunned. He felt that there was no way he could perform the task on such short notice. Walt, as he often did, convinced his employee that not only could he do it, but he was just the person for the job. And, as usual, Walt was right.
On May 1, 1954, just over seven months later, the Anaheim Bulletin broke the story. And this story differed somewhat from the story in that March 27, 1952 edition of the Burbank Daily Review. “Disneyland,” Walt said, “will be a fabulous playground–something of a fair, a city from the Arabian Nights, a metropolis of the future, a showplace of magic and loving facts, but above all, a place for people to find happiness and knowledge.” Construction began on July 16, 1954.
Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom opened on July 17, 1955.
Jeff: Unfortunately, Walt Disney died from lung cancer on December 15, 1966, before seeing his vision of Disney World realized. But up until his death, Walt was actively involved in the developing of ideas and basic philosophies for this new type of living, working, and entertainment environment.Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother and business partner, postponed his retirement to oversee construction of the resort’s first phase and to help his brother’s dream become a reality.
On February 2, 1967, Roy O. Disney held his own press conference in Winter Park, Florida, where the famous EPCOT film, the last one Walt recorded before his death, was screened in front of press. After the film spun its final reel, Roy explained that for Disney World, and Walt’s vision of E.P.C.O.T., to truly work, a special district would have to be formed: the Reedy Creek Improvement District. This district, with the cities of Bay Lake and Reedy Creek inside it, would have immunity from any current or future county or state land-use laws.
About 9,000 workers were involved in the two-year construction effort, which turned the Florida swamp land into the vacation kingdom of the world. They built a 200-acre man-made lake called Seven Seas Lagoon, developed rolling landscapes for not one, but two championship 18-hole golf courses, built two of the world’s most unique and innovative hotels and a network of land and water transportation to connect everything altogether. The total cost of the project was about $400 million.
To pay homage to his brother, Roy O. Disney renamed this resort wonderland, and opened Walt Disney World on October 1, 1971.
Keith: Walt Disney once said, “Main Street, U.S.A., is America at the turn of the century. The crossroads of an era. The gas lamps and the electric lamps, the horse drawn car and the auto car. Main Street is everyone’s hometown… the heartline of America.” Walt drew so much inspiration for Main Street from his experiences as a boy growing up in Marceline, Missouri. While he only lived in Marceline for 5 years (between the ages of 4 and 9), the experience stayed with him for the rest of his life. Diane Disney Miller once said that well into her teens, she assumed her father had spent his entire childhood in the small Missouri town, as much as he reminisced about his days there.
When Main Street first opened with Disneyland, it was not the shopping mecca it is today. Sure there were shops, but a lot of space was devoted to establishments one would actually find in a turn-of-the-century small town. There was a bank, a realtor’s office, even a pharmacy. And Walt made sure to make this area feel even more like home by building a small apartment for himself above the Fire Station.
Jeff: The decor of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. is that of 20th-century small-town America, where they celebrate the 4th of July every day. It doesn’t just focus on Walt’s childhood home, but has many stylistic influences from around the country, such as New England and Missouri. You can see this pretty well in the “four corners” area, right in the middle of Main Street, where 4 different styles meld into one.
As mentioned in our earlier duel on Main Street itself, my favorite part was West Center Street and East Center street, which ran directly across Main Street, and created an extra ounce of authenticity to the world that was created. Thought it no longer exists, you could shop at the Flower Market, wander down the street, and hear the citizens of Main Street living their lives from the windows above. It was truly wonderful.
Keith: In 1953, during Disneyland’s early planning stages, Walt already had a vision for Tomorrowland in mind. He said the land of the future would be “the factual and scientific exposition of things to come.” Just a year later, with Disneyland’s budget stretched as far as it could go, Walt decided that Tomorrowland would not be opening with Disneyland. In January of 1955, less than six months before opening day, he changed his mind.
The “futuristic world of 1986” eventually gave way to a “world on the move”. By 1967, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was home to an entire theater that rotated, a Skyway to Fantasyland, puttering Mark VII Autopia cars, submarines gliding through a glimmering lagoon, brilliant white spinning rocket jets, and of course, a Peoplemover.
Unfortunately, these days Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is a shell of its former glory. While it still manages to hold some nostalgia for many longtime park guests (myself included), its vacant and mismanaged areas are just sad reminders to those of us who remember what used to be. But for the purposes of staying positive, you never know what the future holds. And after all, tomorrow is just a dream away!
Jeff: When Tomorrowland opened at the Magic Kingdom, it was much closer to what Walt’s original vision for it looked like. Ironically enough, it also opened unfinished, but that didn’t keep the guests away. It was designed in a Googie style, with the iconic large waterfalls flanking the entrance. The color scheme was predominantly white, with a few soft blues, creating a very retro-modernist landscape. It was the idealized version of “the future.” Featuring huge monolithic towers and spires it really gave off that futuristic look
In 1994, however, the design was changed to more of a “future that never was.” Because the older style had become outdated, and didn’t look as futuristic in the modern age, it was decided to make it look more like how we viewed the future in the 1960s. As a result, we have an area that truly comes alive at night, and really blows you away with its visuals.
Keith: Disneyland’s Fantasyland: where Disney dark rides were born.
When coming up with the design for Fantasyland, the Imagineers wanted it to have a festive “village” feel. The problem with that was, it was expensive. Ever-resourceful, they figured out a solution. “We decided to use festive tournament tents on the attraction entrances,” recalled architect Bill Martin. “It still kept the village atmosphere, while being quite cost-effective.” The look remained for years.
In 1983, the entire land was redesigned with a European village theme. New attractions premiered (Pinocchio’s Daring Journey), existing attractions were relocated (Dumbo, Mad Tea Party, King Arthur’s Carrousel), and a few attractions even received updates (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Snow White). The 1983 redo is also responsible for the Sleeping Beauty Castle drawbridge being raised and lowered for only the second time in the park’s history.
Oh, and Jeff… Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Jeff: The original version of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland was based on a medieval faire and carnival, allowing for some interesting theming. Most of the indoor attractions were located within medieval style “tents,” and had jousting sticks “holding” the structure up. Of course, we had a few modified versions of Disneyland dark rides, but it also had a wildly different version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (designed by Rolly Crump!), and the vastly superior submarine ride, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. And yes, I realize that you’re trying to use YOUR Mr. Toad as your “Crump” card, Keith, but you are sadly mistaken. This one kicked yours square in the bum. Both cheeks.
Though some of the rides have come and gone, no massive updates were seen under 2012, when New Fantasyland opened toward the back of the land. Adding a whole new layer of amazing detail to Fantasyland, guests can now explore Belle’s village (complete with Gaston’s Tavern, her cottage, and of course, the Be Our Guest restaurant), and the Little Mermaid ride, along with Storybook circus. I dare say our Fantasyland is more diverse, and it really does feel like three entirely separate lands in one.
Keith: Did you say kick, Jeff? Or kicked? Lemme scroll up… ah, kicked. Got it.
New Orleans Square, the first new land to be added to Disneyland since the park opened, debuted on July 24, 1966. The area didn’t have any available attractions that day, but it did have the mayor of New Orleans present to help Walt with the dedication. Guests could still take in the gorgeous French Quarter-style architecture, as well as peruse the shops, and enjoy delicious Cajun cuisine.
Pirates of the Caribbean, (still) thought of by many as Disney’s greatest attraction, opened on March 18, 1967. The Blue Bayou, one of the most desirable eateries in all of Disneyland, opened in the same building, on the same day. The only more sought-after eatery in the park–in the entire resort for that matter–also resides in New Orleans Square. Club 33, originally created to be a private dining room for Walt and his family to enjoy, as well as entertain special guests, was meant to compliment the new apartment being added over Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately Walt wouldn’t live long enough to see it completed, so after a brief period of using the space as it was intended, Disney eventually turned it into a private club for paid members.
Five years before New Orleans Square even opened, Disney announced a Haunted Mansion attraction would be frightening guests within two years. A beautiful, stately mansion was erected in 1963, however it would remain dormant for six years. It finally opened on August 9, 1969, and along with Pirates of the Caribbean, continues to be the benchmark for attraction-based entertainment to this day.
Jeff: Though much smaller than its counterparts, Liberty Square celebrates the history of America, and celebrates it will. It does an amazing job of replicating a small town during colonial times. It’s meant to invoke the colonial era feel, with numerous references to our nation’s early history all around.
In addition to being the home of the Haunted Mansion, Liberty Square also allows you to learn about our great nation’s presidents, while visiting the Hall of Presidents. It’s a fascinating bit of history, and includes more animatronics in one place than you can shake a stick out. And then when it’s over, you can hop on the Liberty Belle for a leisurely jaunt around the Rivers of America.
Keith: When Disneyland first opened, Frontierland was by far the most prominent land in the park. At roughly 20 acres, it comprised about one-third of the place. Early attractions included an Indian Village, a miniature horse corral, Pack Mules, and actual Stage Coaches. These days folks visit Frontierland to gain passage on the Sailing Ship Columbia or Mark Twain Riverboat, enjoy delicious family-style food at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, experience the classic venue known as The Golden Horseshoe, or ride a runaway train on Big Thunder Mountain*.
Jeff: Located along the Rivers of America, when Frontierland opened at the Magic Kingdom, it only featured three attractions: the Railroad, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, and the Country Bear Jamboree. However, over the years, the wild west has been expanded quite a bit, and extends even further back into the Park. Tom Sawyer Island opened in 1973, adding a whole new land to the area, while Splash Mountain changed the skyline in 1992.
I seriously think Frontierland is one of, if not the best, themed area of the Magic Kingdom. Plus, the Country Bears still reign supreme. How can you go wrong with that?!
Keith: When Disneyland first opened, Adventureland’s “Explorer’s Boat Ride” was one of the park’s marquee attractions. It experienced a few name changes over the years, until 1959 when it became known as “The Jungle Cruise”. Another difference about the early days of the attraction is that the narration used to be “serious” as opposed to comical. In fact when Disney promoted the ride, the literature promised that “adventure lurks at every bend”.
The Enchanted Tiki Room recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. It is a true Disney classic in every sense of the word. While it’s gone under a few minor changes over the years, Disneyland’s version has been mercifully spared any “new management” takeovers.
In March of 1995, Indiana Jones made his way into Disneyland, and changed the landscape of Adventureland. The ride features an elaborate queue, a fun story, and a thrilling ride experience onboard the most technologically sophisticated vehicles in the park.
Jeff: The Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland beats out Disneyland’s for quite a few reasons. However, the main one is size. You can actually WALK through this one without being greeted by shoulder to shoulder traffic.
You don’t need to visit New Orleans to find our Pirates. In fact, the land of adventure is a great place for them to be! After that, you can visit some enchanted birds at the Enchanted Tiki Room, or take a ride down the river on our amazing Jungle Cruise.
Keith: Mickey’s Toontown opened on January 24, 1993. And I was there. In fact, my cousin and I were the first guests in Mickey’s House that day. Not ever, of course, thanks to the world of “soft openings”. But it was kinda cool being the first ones in there on the official opening day.
Hey, I said kinda.
That’s pretty much where Toontown loses me. I think Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin is a fine dark ride, but I would be 100% okay with relocating it to Fantasyland, and then bulldozing Toontown. Just sayin’.
Jeff: Toontown at the Magic Kingdom was kinda OK as well. Nothing overly exciting. It was meant as a temporary land that wound up staying well past its welcome. But because we no longer have a Toontown either, let’s move on!
Keith: Bear Country opened on March 24, 1972. Comprising the entire area of the former Indian Village (and then some), the land’s signature attraction was an audio-animatronic show featuring singing bears, that was originally meant for a ski resort in California’s Mineral King Valley. After plans for the ski resort were scrapped, the Country Bear Jamboree made its way into the Magic Kingdom in 1971, then Disneyland the following year. In addition to singing bears (and a snoring one at the land’s entrance), Bear Country contained an arcade, a few shops, and the infamous Mile Long Bar, that wasn’t a bar at all. Thanks to clever mirror positioning, this small eatery’s interior looked like it went on for, well, a mile.
With a new E-ticket log ride set to debut in the summer of 1989, containing a host of different animal characters (recycled from the recently-closed America Sings attraction), Disney decided to de-emphasize the bears in Bear Country. In November of 1988, Bear Country became Critter Country, and on July 17, 1989, Splash Mountain officially opened to guests eager to ride what Disney then touted as “the world’s steepest, highest, scariest, wildest adventure.”
Jeff: While we don’t have a Critter Country, we DO still have the Country Bear Jamboree, so we totally beat you on that note, Keith. DEAL WITH IT.
Keith: This is true, and I am still bitter that our Country Bears were evicted by Pooh. But I suppose it isn’t as bad as who was evicted by Pooh on your coast!
So this may be the longest Dueling Disney we’ve ever done. Do you think we just keep typing and typing because, if we don’t stop typing, Dueling Disney won’t end?
Jeff: It’ll be just like a big cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting…and knitting…and knitting…and knitting…
Keith: And knitting.
Well Jeff, it’s been fun. And while this is in no way the last Dueling Disney, it’ll be the last one for a little bit. Had a great time debating with you all year, bud. And in regards to this last duel… c’mon, Magic Kingdom vs. Disneyland? Really? Even Floridians are going to vote for Disneyland in this round! But thanks for fighting the good fight, as always. See you again on the battlefield real soon.
Jeff: I had a great time dueling with you, too, buddy! And that’s why we’re friends…we’re able to playfully jab each other in regards to Disney stuff, and NOT be mad at each other. And thank YOU, fair readers, for joining us on our journey this year. We appreciate all your time spent with us
What do you guys think? Have you enjoyed Dueling Disney this past year? Are you looking forward to what Keith and Jeff come up with next? Isn’t Jeff ridiculously more good-looking than Keith is? Who wins the final battle?
Dueling Disney is written by Keith Gluck and Jeff Heimbuch