5 Obscure Disney Park Characters that Fans Can’t Get Enough Of

5 Obscure Disney Park Characters that Fans Can’t Get Enough Of

We all love Disney characters, but did you know that there are some obscure ones that Disney Park fans go particularly crazy for? Ever wondered who that Michael Jackson character is? Or that man with the purple suit at EPCOT? This is the place to be!

If you’re interested in more details about these characters’ history, beyond why they’re so popular among fans of the parks, we will be making separate posts for them in the future! However, today we are simply giving a quick background for each so that you get a basis of why fans love them!

So, without further ado…

Orange Bird:

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This cute little guy was created in a sponsorship deal with the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC). The FCC required that Disney, a company known for its recognizable cartoon characters, would create a mascot to use in the marketing of Florida’s citrus products in return for funding WDW’s version of the Tiki Room (Tropical Serenade). Not wanting to lose a sponsorship from a large and wealthy coalition of Florida citrus growers, Disney jumped on the task. Thus, the Orange Bird was born.

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The character was featured heavily in not only the marketing for the 1971 attraction, but also in several ad campaigns for the FCC up until the late 70’s. The Orange Bird continued to be featured in educational films made for the FCC and in the parks until 1987, when Disney finally stopped working with the FCC. As a result, the character virtually vanished from the parks. However, something about the character resonated in Japan when it showed up in Tokyo Disneyland. In fact, the Japanese were absolutely obsessed with the Orange Bird aesthetic and he experienced a bit of a revival in popularity as a result, which quickly spread to the United States. In 2012, the Orange Bird finally returned to the Magic Kingdom with force and the character became an icon for ‘in-the-know’ nostalgia fans.

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Captain EO:

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In the 80’s Disney commissioned some of Hollywood’s biggest names to make attractions; in hopes of widening Disney’s audience. To this end, they commissioned George Lucas, at the height of his popularity after Star Wars, to make several attractions for Disney. One of these attractions, and the most expensive film ever produced at the time would be directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and star the one and only Michael Jackson in the title role! This ‘masterpiece’ became the wild musical space-opera known as Captain EO.

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Sadly, reviews for the show were mixed, and the attraction was eventually removed after ten years due to the dwindling crowds. However, 80’s kids never forgot the wild musical space opera that was Captain EO, and when the King of Pop passed away in 2009, the film saw a massive resurgence in popularity; causing Disney to revisit the film as a tribute to Michael. Ever since then, Captain EO has become a Michael Jackson icon…even outside the parks!

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Hatbox Ghost:

The Hatbox Ghost was another resident created for the Haunted Mansion in 1969, but unlike other tenants of the mansion, the Hatbox Ghost had a gimmick that made him special; his ghostly head disappeared from his shoulders and reappeared in the Hatbox that he was holding! The gimmick was a big deal at the time, and so the Hatbox Ghost was featured prominently all over promotional materials for the ride. When the ride opened, fans clambered to see the Hatbox Ghost and others like him. But after just a few short weeks, the Hatbox Ghost mysteriously disappeared! Rumors spread like wildfire about why it was removed, with some people even reporting that he had never been there in the first place!

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But, the character (who really was there for a few weeks, despite what some would say) was simply removed early on because his gimmick did not work as intended. However, the myths and speculation about ‘Hatty’ became so popular and outrageous, that Disney could not pass up such a good PR opportunity. With much fanfare, the Hatbox Ghost was updated with new technology and inserted back into the Disneyland mansion, where he has been resting to this day.

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Oswald:

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Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a very special character to Disney fans. In fact, his importance in Disney is unparalleled by any other Disney character besides Mickey Mouse himself…and most people don’t even know it!

Believe it or not, Oswald predates Mickey Mouse as Walt Disney’s first fully-fleshed cartoon character! So why haven’t more people heard of him? Well, unfortunately, Walt Disney was swindled out of the rights to the character by his distributor in 1928; along with almost all his staff! Broke, and with no character to his name, Walt desperately searched for a new character that would save him; the result of this despair-ridden brainstorming was none other than Mickey Mouse himself! So, you could say that Oswald was directly responsible for the creation of Mickey Mouse. The lessons Walt learned from that betrayal helped shape the entire company from that day forward.

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In 2006, nearly 80 years later, the rights to Oswald were finally bought back by Disney; proudly placing ‘Mickey’s Older Brother’ back in the family where he belonged, much to the joy of longtime Disney fans everywhere!

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Figment And Dreamfinder:

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Arguably the most popular characters on this list, Dreamfinder and Figment may be two separate characters, but true fans know that you cannot really have one without the other! As evidenced by the lackluster response to Figment’s recent solo career, the lovable dragon from our imaginations just isn’t the same without his red-bearded best friend. These guys are the unofficial mascots of EPCOT and are beloved by fans worldwide.

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They were originally introduced as EPCOT’s first walkaround characters, appearing to promote their upcoming ride; Journey into Imagination. When the ride opened in 1983, it was a massive hit, and the imaginative duo became the most popular feature at EPCOT. However, in 1999, Disney made what some fans consider to be the company’s biggest mistake ever. Announcing that Journey into Imagination would close for a simple refurbishment, fans were shocked and appalled to find that Disney would reopen the ride as the completely different, vastly inferior, Journey into Your Imagination instead! They even removed the iconic Dreamfinder and figment from the entire attraction!

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Due to the huge outcry from fans, Disney soon closed the attraction and once again changed it to the now current Journey Into Imagination with Figment; bringing back Figment, but not Dreamfinder. It lessened the outcry a bit, but diehard fans still yearn for the original attraction to return!

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What’s Your Favorite Obscure Character at the Parks?

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Alice in Wonderland (1951)

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#1: It Was the Origins of the Disney Studio

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Walt Disney started his career in animation at a rather young age by working at the Laugh-O-Grams Studio in 1921.  But that job was doomed to fail, because the Kansas City based studio went bankrupt in 1223, leaving Walt Disney without a job. The last film he made for that company, Alice’s Wonderland, never saw a release. The film, loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, followed a live-action girl that ventured into a cartoon world. Walt was very fond of his film, as he had always dreamed of making a full-length film based on Alice and he believed this short to be the first step towards that goal. He used it as a pilot to engage potential distributors into signing him on for a contract and a steady job. Eventually one did; Margaret J. Winkler (distributor of Felix the Cat), contracted Walt for an entire series based on the film. Through this deal, Walt founded his own studio in late 1923 titled Disney Bros. Studios (the ‘Bros.’ part referring to Walt’s lifelong partner and brother, Roy Disney), and today we know this company under its more familiar title…Walt Disney Productions! The studio was literally founded on Alice! And it would have been the subject of Disney’s first Feature-length film, if it hadn’t run into a bit of a problem!

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#2: One of the Longest Projects in Disney Animation

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As we mentioned above, Alice in Wonderland was considered as the primary candidate for Walt’s first feature-length film. In fact, Walt went so far as to purchase the rights to Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations of Alice. However, the concept was dropped in favor of Snow White for several reasons. The main reason was Walt’s discouragement when Paramount Pictures beat him to the punch in 1933 with their live-action version of Alice. However, Walt never forgot his dream of making his own version of Alice. He revisited the idea in 1938 after Snow White proved to be an enormous success. He even registered the title with the Motion Picture Association of America. But due to creative issues and story problems, especially with adapting the unorthodox ‘nonsense’ of the books into a script, the project slowed down significantly. Then the devastation of WW2 hit, putting both of Disney’s biggest projects at the time (Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan) on hold. Even after the war, Disney had so much trouble adapting the books into a workable plot structure, that production became a virtual nightmare. This led the film to be delayed for another 6 years, until it finally made its big screen debut in 1951.

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#3: It Went Through A Lot of Crazy Changes

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Mary Blair’s cute artwork

As you can imagine, 15 years in production caused a lot of changes to the Alice in Wonderland story. An early version, with concepts and story treatments by David Hall and Al Perkins respectively, explored a more surreal approach. However, Walt, despite praising Hall’s brilliant artwork, deemed these concepts as too close to Tenniel’s drawings and called them ‘difficult to animate’. He also thought the tone of Perkins’ treatment was too ‘grotesque and dark’. The next iteration of the story, for which Disney hired the British writer Aldous Huxley, was also a bit off the mark. This version was reportedly very academic in its approach. Apparently, it was too academic, and risked alienating the children who watched. However, a background artist by the name of Mary Blair finally arrived at the tone and look that Walt was searching for; a world full of vibrant colors and unforgettable characters!

(Below are side-by-side comparisons of David Hall’s concepts and Tenniel’s original illustrations for the novels)

#4: The Characters were Just as Fascinating Behind the Scenes

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Speaking of characters, Alice has some of the most memorable characters in any Disney film. This was largely due to the voice talent, which was considered the first real all-star cast for a Disney film. In fact, it was the first ever Disney film to include the names of it’s actors as a major part of its marketing, something that wouldn’t happen again until The Jungle Book. The cast included huge stars like comedian Jerry Colonna as the March Hare, British actor Richard Haydn as the Caterpillar, radio veteran Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat, and the famous vaudevillian actor Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter.

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Jerry Colonna, Ed Wynn, and Kathryn Beaumont recording for  theMad Tea Party

 

Ed Wynn, a stage master, did most of his best work improvising during the live-action reference filming; so much so, that Walt decided to use the primitive audio of those shoots instead of his pre-recorded work. The result was a brilliant impromptu performance, but with slightly odd-sounding audio. You can even hear a sound technician’s voice during one scene at the 45:50 mark! These voice talents, coupled with genius and unorthodox animation by Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men (with Ward Kimball’s madcap animation being of note in the most famous scenes), created iconic versions of the characters that have become as famous, if not more so, than John Tenniel’s designs.

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Ed Wynn’s performance directly inspired the animation, as seen here with the spoon gag that appears in the finished film.

#5: Its Music Broke Records

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Last, but not least, was the fact that Alice in Wonderland still holds the record for the most songs in any Disney film EVER! Not only that, but the film’s memorable songs won the Academy Award for best original score. Due to Walt’s desire to including Carroll’s famous poems and rhymes in the film, without interrupting the story, he opted to turn most of them into songs. Originally, around 30 songs were created for the film, but due to run-time, it was cut to a total of 14 songs in the 75 minutes of the film; that means there was a song almost every 5 minutes!

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What’s your favorite Alice fact?

Disneyland Almost Failed!

Disneyland Almost Failed!

Disneyland Almost Failed!

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On July 17th, 1955, one of Walt Disney’s greatest dreams became a reality. Disneyland opened its gate for the first time, and the world would never be the same! But what if we told you that this dream was very close to dying before it even got off the ground? What if I told you that, without Walt Disney’s seemingly endless perseverance and dedication, Disneyland might have failed?

Some Disney fans are already aware of the fascinating and disastrous day that happened almost 65 years ago, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, we hope that you leave today with greater appreciation for The Happiest Place on Earth and the extreme effort that it took to make it come to life!

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The story begins in the early days of the Disney Studios, when Walt was inspired by visits to amusement parks with his daughters in the 30’s and 40’s; reportedly, he came up with the concept while watching his daughters riding a carousel from a nearby bench. He was frustrated that there weren’t enough experiences at the park that he and his daughters could enjoy together and he made up his mind to one day build a park where kids and grown-ups could play together. Thus, Disneyland was born!

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The development for Disneyland was long and tedious, yet undeniably fascinating. We don’t have the time to cover all that history today; that’s a subject for another time. But the long and short of the ordeal was that Walt Disney’s plans continued to grow…and grow…and grow, until his ambitious dream began to worry the money-men. However, Walt was determined to see the culmination of his dream project no matter what happened. So, Walt continued to fund-raise, promote, invest his own money, and even borrow against his own life insurance to get the project up and running!

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Naysayers surrounded the project. The Disney Board argued that Amusement Parks weren’t their type of business, Roy Disney (Walt’s brother and business partner) warned Walt against the financial ruin it would cause if it failed, and even Amusement Park experts told him that nobody would be interested in a ‘family park’ that (at the time) wouldn’t sell alcohol! Most critics even went so far as to call Disneyland Walt’s worst decision ever, and a foolish idea that was doomed to fail. It seemed that most people thought that Disneyland would never work. In hindsight, we know this to be false, as Disneyland was not only a huge success, but it also reshaped the Theme Park Industry as we know it. However, during its construction it was a legitimate fear that Disneyland would not succeed. Many people were very worried.

Then came Black Sunday.

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Black Sunday was the name that Disney Executives gave Disneyland’s opening day of July 17th, 1955 due to the perceived disaster of the theme park’s debut. The park opened to the public and press with what was, at the time, considered a disaster of epic proportions. First, the opening day was meant to only be open to the media and special invited guests; instead, twice as many people as expected showed up! This was due to a vast number of counterfeit tickets sold to the public, and even a few people climbing the fence and sneaking through gates. In fact, about half of the 28,000 people in attendance that day had entered Disneyland illegally.

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The opening day festivities were broadcast worldwide on ABC, hosted by Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and future President Ronald Reagan! although this seems like an amazing idea, unforeseen broadcasting problems quickly mounted with so many unexpected guests. People tripped over television cables left and right, problems sprang up around technical issues and mistakes, cues were missed, responsibilities were mismanaged, and there was even an improvised ‘skit’ involving Linkletter looking for his lost microphone (he really had misplaced it but tried to hide the fact by making the search an ‘impromptu adventure through Disneyland’).

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In addition, a regional Plumbing Strike forced Disney to chose between water fountains and toilets. Of course, Walt chose the latter for sanitary purposes. However, since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening, guests mistook the lack of working water fountains as a greedy way to force them into buying soda! Soda and food ran out very quickly due to the demand of so many guests. Parents threw their kids over the shoulders of the crowds to get them on rides faster, and people cut in line (not that the last one has changed all that much). The Mark Twain Riverboat even began to sink when guests continued to force their way on, even after Cast Members told them that the boat had reached peak capacity! There were even the problems resulting from unexpected weather, as the unusually high temperature of 101° Fahrenheit caused the newly poured asphalt to become soft. This led to things like high heels sinking into the sticky substance.

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By the time the park closed for the day, it seemed as if Disneyland had been the failure that everyone had been expecting it to be. If we were there on that day, without the benefit of hindsight, we would have probably said the same thing. To all who heard about it, the day seemed like a nightmarish disaster.

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Today, historians recognize that most of the perceived disaster was due to bad luck, and the park being unprepared for so many people. They now can objectively see that the park was a success with fans from its very first day, despite what it had looked like in the moment, and the second day attendance proved this. the park managed very well on its second try and the insanity of Black Sunday became a legendary false alarm as Disneyland quickly became one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. Walt Disney’s vision finally became a reality, but not without a few scares along the way!

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If Walt hadn’t stuck with his dream and persevered against all odds, Disneyland might have never existed!

What do you think was the craziest thing to happen on Black Sunday?

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)

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Walt Disney (born 1901) predated the creation of Peter Pan’s play by 3 years. Therefore, he was the perfect age to grow up with the popular play. He was an even better age to be influenced by the subsequent novel which revived the popularity of the show in 1911; being among the thousands of young children who fell in love with story. After seeing it live, he could never forget it, and it even prompted him to play the title character in school.

So, to honor this classic’s 65th Anniversary, and Walt’s love of the story, here’s a list of 5 things you may not know about Peter Pan!

#1: It Was Almost Abandoned

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early concept

It was no surprise that Walt had always wanted to make a Peter Pan film. In fact, after making Snow White, Walt had originally intended for Peter Pan to be one of his earliest features. He procured the rights as soon as he could afford them and made plans to move into pre-production not long after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first released.

But fate was not so kind. The rights of Peter Pan were very difficult to obtain because J.M. Barrie had donated them to The Great Ormond Street Hospital in Britain; an act of astounding charity that unknowingly made the rights difficult to license. Eventually, Walt did gain the rights, but it was too late. The U.S. had already been drawn into WW2. The U.S. Government took control of various studios, including Disney, to produce propaganda for the war effort. This brought Peter Pan to a screeching halt. In fact, the project seemed abandoned for good, until Walt managed to get the studio back on track after the war with Cinderella (1950). With the returns from Cinderella, Walt managed to fuel dream projects like Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Peter Pan finally made it to the screen after a hectic 15 years in production!

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Darling family concept

#2: Peter Pan Changed Everything

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Peter Pan RKO logo

Peter Pan marked the end of two eras at the Disney Studio. The first was that Peter Pan was the last Disney film in which all of the ‘Nine Old Men’ worked together. The “Nine Old Men’ were the most influential, skilled, and loyal animators at the studio. All of the Nine stayed with the company after Peter Pan, but split up into different projects such as developing Disneyland, or working on live-action films. The second era that Peter Pan ended was that of the ‘third-party distributor’. Peter Pan was the last Disney film to be distributed by a third-party distribution company. In fact, Walt has been working most of his career to accomplish this. He was proud to unveil a brand-new company, Buena Vista Distribution, to the public later that same year! Now he would distribute his own films. This meant that he could finally have 100% control over his product from start to finish. In the past, companies like RKO Radio Productions (the distributor of Peter Pan) would control Disney’s product after it was finished. With Buena Vista, Disney finally had the ability to do what he wanted with his films whether he was finished with them or not.

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the nine!

#3: The Story Was Almost Completely Different

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Over the 15 years of its production, the story of the film changed drastically. In one early version of the film, Peter Pan thought that John was too grown-up for Neverland and abandoned him. This would have made one of the main characters of the original Peter Pan story nonexistent in early drafts! In addition to possibly dropping certain characters, there were also dramatic changes to the overall tone of the film. There was an especially dark and more serious version of the film that was storyboarded, targeted more towards teenagers, that Walt promptly shut down for being too scary. And in a final possibility, Nana, the nursemaid dog, was going to accompany the children to Neverland. In fact, the narrative of the story was going to be told from her point of view!

Of course, any one of these possibilities would have made the story completely different from the beloved tale we know! But it’s fascinating to see what direction the Disney artists went before they settled on the right course. It’s always interesting to see what could have been.

#4: A Popular Tinker Bell Rumor is Actually Wrong

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There is an popular rumor going about Tinker Bell which has gained quite a bit of notoriety. Legend has it that Tinker Bell was modeled after the famous film star Marilyn Monroe. While this is a very interesting, and naturally compelling theory, it is unfortunately NOT TRUE! The idea of Marilyn being popular enough to influence the design of a Disney character has become so popular that Marc Davis himself (Tinker Bell’s designer and animator) went on record to say that he actually directly based Tinker Bell’s design on model Margaret Kerry. Margaret provided live-action reference for the character and the influence of her distinctive features can be clearly seen in Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell may bear a passing resemblance to Marilyn, but it’s impossible for her to be based on the starlet, since Marilyn didn’t really become famous until AFTER Peter Pan!

#5: Extraordinary Casting

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Peter Pan has one of the most fascinating voice casts in all of Disney’s history. A star-studded cast, including a few familiar Disney veterans, filled out the ranks. The title role was filled by Bobby Driscoll, a veteran of five Disney films, and a popular teen heartthrob. Surprisingly, he was the first male to play Peter Pan on film ever! In addition to Driscoll, another Disney child star, Kathryn Beaumont, played Wendy Darling a mere two years after appearing as Alice in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Finally, to everyone’s excitement, long-time character actor Bill Thompson (White Rabbit, The Dodo, Scrooge McDuck, etc.) played the lovable Mr. Smee.

But it wasn’t only Disney Luminaries who made up the cast. The great Golden Age starlet Heather Angel (Bulldog Drummond) provided the voice of Mrs. Darling, Television superstar Tom Conway (The Falcon) voiced the narrator, and last but not least, unparalleled Radio King and stage veteran Hans Conried (Orson Welle’s Mercury Theatre Company) turned in the distinctive performance of the hilarious Captain Hook; a fan favorite villain. In fact, Hans’s voice is so comparatively unique, that it’s hard not to notice that he also plays Mr. Darling; continuing a peculiar tradition of the stage performance where the same actor always played both characters!

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Conried also played Hook in live-action reference footage so that Hook even looks and moves like him!

Above are rare photos of Conried in costume!

Enjoy these facts? Let us know in the comments! We want to know; what’s your favorite thing about Peter Pan?

The Lost Land of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Lost Land of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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The Lost Land of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort has always been one of the most fascinating theme parks in the world. However, Animal Kingdom was originally supposed to be even more fascinating than it already is. It was supposed have three separate types of animals featured in the parks; The animals of today, the animals of days gone by, and the animals of fantasy. Obviously, two of these can be found readily enough across the park, with the acres of live-animal habitats and a whole land devoted to Dinosaurs. But what about the animals of fantasy? It turns out that Imagineers had planned plenty of fantasy in the park, but most of it never came to be. However, one of these scrapped concepts was particularly intriguing; the legendary plans for a realm called Beastly Kingdom.

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Unsurprisingly, Disney had originally planned for mythical creatures to be a larger presence in the park; intending them to be the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom’s first major expansion in the years following its opening. It certainly made sense for Disney, a company associated with myth and fantasy, to play to their strengths. So naturally, a massive amount of concept art and development was directed to the creation of a large and intricately themed land based on humanity’s greatest legends.

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Divided into two opposing sections, the concept for the land called Beastly kingdom was intended to be an immersive world surrounding the creatures of mythology. The ‘Dark Side’, located to the left of the entrance, would showcase more heart-thumping thrills, while the ‘Light Side’ on the right would focus more on family attractions.

The Dark Side opened with a twisted path leading through a dark and brooding forest that exited into a large Stonehenge-styled courtyard. There, guests would enter a medieval village that sat under the looming shadow of a crumbling castle tower. Inside the tower, the first of Beastly Kingdom’s E-Ticket attractions would reside; The Dragon’s Tower!

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Guests entered the decrepit fortress to find a roller-coaster/Dark Ride hybrid that would bring them face to face with a fire-breathing animatronic dragon. The guests would board ‘bats’ that flew on a coaster track in a mission to steal back the gold that had been hoarded by a mighty dragon deep within the bowels of the ancient castle; witnessing a supposedly immersive interior filled with grand halls, battered armor, old swords, and piles of endless gold. It was intended to end in a very close and personal encounter with the dragon itself before guests narrowly escaped certain doom. Located in a sub-section of this land, there was going to be shops and eateries surrounding the lagoon of a giant sea-serpent.

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To the right of the entrance, an entirely different path awaited the young at heart; a land of goodness and light. The ‘Light Side’ of Beastly Kingdom would stand in stark contrast to its darker neighbor, supposedly beginning with a path through peaceful woods that opened onto Olympian architecture and Greek statues of an area called ‘Fantasia Gardens’. Here, a tranquil boat ride for the whole family would take you into the mythical world of Disney’s Fantasia (1940) letting you drift past musical scenes from the film, in a visually fantasy of the Disneyland ‘Small World’ variety.

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But Fantasia Gardens, however cute, was simply meant as secondary experience to compliment Beastly Kingdom’s second E-Ticket attraction; Quest for the Unicorn. This walk-through attraction would allow the guests to go on a journey into their most beautiful dreams. Designed as a maze/interactive adventure attraction, Quest for the Unicorn would allow guests to travel through a hedge labyrinth, and past breathtaking sets designed to transport you into a child’s storybook. While there, guests would attempt to locate hidden statues which gave them clues to make it to the center of the maze. Once guests successfully navigated the steps to the center, they would be rewarded with a beautiful chamber of bubbling pools and glittering caves. And there in the center of it all, would be a beautiful animatronic unicorn.

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All in all, Beastly Kingdom was to be a feat of Imagineering that would require all of their vast skills. So, what happened to this enchanted realm of Unicorns and Dragons?

Sadly, at the time Beastly Kingdom was in development, Disney was not ready to commit to the large sum needed for its construction. Due to unforeseen complications at Disney’s overseas parks, the company was not yet willing to risk so much money on an expansion to a park that was already successful, and thus Beastly Kingdom was put on hold. However, Disney would keep delaying the project due to bad luck, and it never really had the time to take off. However, Joe Rohde, the Imagineer in charge of Beastly Kingdom, would continue to hold onto those concepts even through the tough times; eventually spinning them off into new projects like Expedition Everest.

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But finally, with Director James Cameron’s support, and the acquisition of the rights for a popular movie called Avatar, an elaborate new land would finally have the financial backing that it needed. Joe Rohde took the old ride concepts for Beastly Kingdom, and reworked them into the amazing new land called Pandora: The World of Avatar and subsequently built Avatar Flight of Passage (using concepts from Dragon’s Tower) and Na’vi River Journey (using both Fantasia Gardens and Quest of the Unicorn).

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Sadly, the legendary Beastly Kingdom will probably never be built the way it was originally intended. However, there is now a new world full of mythical creatures and immersive environments that you can visit. Even though it’s not the same as Beastly Kingdom, the spirit of adventure and escapism remains through the talented designs of Imagineers that worked on the original Beastly Kingdom. As for us, we are more than happy to have an alien world filled with floating mountains and otherworldly creatures! Believe us; The World of Avatar is worth it!

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The Eras of Disney Animation

The Eras of Disney Animation

Here’s some fun Disney History for all you fans out there! If you already know this stuff you can check out last week’s post instead! But for the new fans, or those general Disney History buffs, this post is for you! Who knows; Maybe you’ll learn something new!

So, without further ado…

The Golden Age:

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The Golden Age of Disney Animation began with the release of Snow White in 1937. The term ‘Golden Age’ doesn’t necessarily refer to the success of these films because, besides Snow White, most of the films in the Golden Age were largely unsuccessful at the time of their release. Most of them only gained “Classic Status” years later. ‘Golden Age’ more accurately refers to the quality and technical achievements of the era’s animation. Walt spent almost every cent he made during this time on the next masterpiece. He focused on making each film better than the last, ushering in visions of great art and innovation. Unfortunately, this ‘Age of Art’ was cut short by the advent of a worldwide war…

The Wartime Era:

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Because this era was the result of WWII, a largely uncontrollable event, most critics don’t seem to hold it against Disney. This ‘sub-era’ is marked by a halt in the production of animated features as the studio was literally taken-over by the U.S. Government and co-opted into creating propaganda for America…for very little compensation. During this time, Disney had to rely on ‘package films’ to pay the rent and had almost no time to explore more creative avenues. These package films were often compilations of several short films edited together with new inserts to fill out a feature film run-time. Although many of these films are beloved today by Disney fans, they are generally considered of far less quality than the rest of the Golden Age.

The Silver Age:

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Considered by some to be a late extension the Golden Age, the Silver Age is nonetheless separated from the earlier films of the era by the events of WWII. Artistic expression was put on hold during the war. However, with the success of Cinderella, Disney was finally able to revive the innovative works which categorized its early years. This era marks the most prosperous time for the company during Walt’s lifetime, with many films in this era proving to be massive successes that went down in history as Disney Classics. But sadly this era of innovation was not to last. During this time, Disney’s increasingly high standards of innovation started making films incredibly expensive to produce. The cost of production was reaching a critical mass that no Box Office success could overcome. This finally happened in 1959 when Walt Disney reached what he considered the pinnacle of his art form: Sleeping Beauty. It was a Box Office hit, but was still dwarfed by its extravagant production costs. The constant improvement of animation could not be sustained.

Although the films after Sleeping Beauty still met with success, they were far less innovative than earlier endeavors. Animation as an art form began to fade. Eventually the quality of animation came to its lowest point when Walt Disney passed away during production of The Jungle Book. His passing left the company confused and directionless, ushering in a figurative “Dark Age” for animation.

The Bronze Age:

disney dark age

Also referred to as the Dark Age, the Bronze Age of Disney Animation was largely a result of Walt Disney’s passing. Left without a sense of direction or strong leadership, the company entered an era of hits and misses. They seemed to largely fall short of the ‘magic’ that most people associated with Disney. Most of the films in this era, while fondly remembered today, struggled to reach an audience, critical or otherwise. The films in this era did explore some unique and fascinating ideas, but were far less capable of executing them than previous generations. Animation was at a low point, with a focus on films that were cheaper and faster to make, as well as the company shifting its attention to live-action films and theme-parks. during this era they underestimated the vast potential that animated films could have on an audience…That was, until a surprise Box Office hit paved the way for something new…

The Disney Renaissance:

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renaissance part 2

The Great Mouse Detective (from the Bronze Age) made enough money to finance a fairy tale passion project called The Little Mermaid. This film officially launched what most modern audiences consider to be the definitive era for the company in today’s filmmaking landscape: the Disney Renaissance! It is referred to as a ‘Renaissance’ by film critics because of its return to Walt Disney’s ideals of art and innovation, and the company’s success at finally capturing that sense of ‘Disney Magic’ that set them apart from other animation studios. Disney was back as the world’s leading animation studio, churning out hit after hit and charming the world with its beloved characters and stories.

The New Millenium:

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The New Millennium, also called the Experimental Era, mostly centered around Disney changing the way they produced their animation and structured their stories. It was a time of exploration which saw much less success than the Renaissance, and focused on new genres of storytelling. These included Sci-Fi Comedies, Irreverent Comedies, Steampunk, and even Time Travel! Not only did Disney try new things with writing and story structure during this era, but they also experimented with new technology. In this era, Disney introduced more Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), which they had already utilized with their partners at Pixar. This led to Disney making their own full-length CGI animated film: Dinosaur. Not only would this experimentation with technology become the standard at Disney, but it would also spell the beginning of the end for traditional hand-drawn animation in the next era. Despite its shortcomings, many of the films in the Experimental Era would become crucial to the success and reliability of the next age of animation.

The New Golden Age:

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Also referred to as the Revival Era, The Second Golden Age is the one we are currently living in. Starting with the critically acclaimed Princess and the Frog, and going straight through to Disney’s latest film Moana, this era is typified by its unprecedented critical and audience approval. Every single film in this era has been critically acclaimed, and while some are more successful than others at the Box Office, they are all highly rated by audiences. This era was also marked by the decline of traditional hand-drawn animation, with Winnie the Pooh as the last Disney film of this kind, and saw the company switch exclusively to CGI. Built on the foundation of the Experimental Era’s innovations, and fueled by nostalgia for the Renaissance, the New Golden Age continues to forge a path of unique and engaging storytelling for a new generation.

Top 10 Disneyland Attractions Part 1

Top 10 Disneyland Attractions Part 1

Top 10 Disneyland Attractions Part 1

To honor Walt Disney’s original ‘Magic Kingdom’, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Disneyland Attractions in HISTORICAL ORDER.  You can find Part 2 HERE! With so many attractions, some favorites are bound to be left out, but please be aware that EVERY EFFORT was made to be as inclusive as possible!

[Note: Keep in mind that this is Part 1 of 2! The Top 10 Disney California Adventure attractions have their own lists (HERE and HERE ) and they will not be included here! Be sure to check out our lists of the top UNDERRATED Attractions at the entire resort (HEREHERE, and HERE)]

 

So, without further ado…

 

Peter Pan’s Flight (Opening Day, 1955)

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The classic attraction poster

Peter Pan’s Flight is on every guest’s list of must-see attractions at Disneyland. With a sense of childlike wonder Peter Pan takes us into the timeless journey of Neverland and all its wonders. It may not be as sophisticated as Pirates of the Caribbean, but just like Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s flight enchants with its simplicity and fun.  Take a ride in an enchanted flying ship from a nursery in London to the land of your dreams; where Captain Hook schemes and mermaids swim beneath the sparkling seas! This ride is quintessential Fantasyland fare; especially if you have small children who have never been to Disneyland before. Just be aware that the line is always notoriously long!

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it can be enchanting!

Pirates of the Caribbean (1967)

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Vintage attraction poster

Have you ever dreamed of setting sail on a pirate ship with the promise of adventure on the seven seas? What child hasn’t imagined facing the cannons and cutlasses of the open waters, or braving the dangers of a storm; becoming a living legend of the wind and tides? Make your dreams come true with what many Disneyland fans consider to be the best attraction of the entire park…maybe the best attraction at any Disney Park! Today, Pirates of the Caribbean has enchanted the hearts of millions and inspired them towards adventure and bravery for over fifty years. With its stunning and memorable cast of Audio-Animatronic scoundrels, brilliant set designs, and a theme song which is beloved by millions, it’s no wonder why this ride has its own film franchise! Just remember the warning of the eerie caverns when you are tempted towards greed; Dead men tell no tales!

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Full of memorable moments!

The Haunted Mansion (1969)

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Vintage poster showing off the infamous ‘Hitchhiking Ghosts’.

The Haunted Mansion has gone down in history as one of the best attractions at any Disney Park ever, and there’s no wonder as to why! The mansion provides an extremely immersive environment for all its guests to enjoy…or fear! These happy haunts have invited you to join in on the fun!  With the legendary Ghost Host leading foolish mortals through the ghostly manor, you might find that the ride is not really that scary after all. The ride also offers, in our opinion, the best and most diverse display of special effects in any Disneyland ride. While too frightful for some guests, the Haunted Mansion offers an entertaining reward of visual fun and fantasy. 999 happy haunts have retired here, but there’s always room for a 1,000…ANY VOLUNTEERS?

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An iconic and stately landmark.

 

 

Space Mountain (1977)

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Space never looked so good!

This ride always seems to be on the top of every guest’s list of favorite attractions. Space Mountain is a heart-pumping adventure through the blackness of space and an excellent addition to the park’s thrill rides. Not content to just build an ordinary rollercoaster in the dark, the Imagineers really outdid themselves on this one. Completely immersing the guests into the story of an intergalactic space station, the rollercoaster takes you on a lightspeed ride through the stars. It propels you past the sparkling vistas and alien worlds of your dreams; all while adrenaline-pumping music blasts in your ears!  Ironically built at Disneyland in the same year that the original Star Wars film was released, Space Mountain is the premiere attraction of Tomorrowland; the pinnacle of its vision of the future that never was… but could be if we continue to follow our dreams. 3…2…1…WE HAVE IGNITION!

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A truly powerful icon.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (1979)

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Intricate detail!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, like Space Mountain, was another attempt to make something more than an average rollercoaster. Even in their thrill rides, the Imagineers never make anything ordinary! They always infuse every detail with a memorable story. This time the story is that you’re an unsuspecting tourist visiting Big Thunder Mountain; home to an abandoned mine that’s rumored to be haunted. Of course, the rumors turn out to be true! With a mind of its own, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad speeds off out of control; a run-away train flying headlong into danger. With twists and turns through canyon caverns plagued by bats, dinosaur bones, bubbling hot-springs, and desert critters, you’ll be begging for more! Just make sure to look at the dynamite-chewing goat as you pass his ridge…cause this here’s the WILDEST RIDE IN THE WILDERNESS!

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You never know what you might find in the wilderness!

Enjoy This list? Like and share! Also, stay tuned for more Disney Magic every week!

Top Disney California Adventure Attractions Pt. 2

Top Disney California Adventure Attractions Pt. 2

Top 10 Disney California Adventure Attractions Part 2

To honor Disneyland’s newer sibling, Disney California Adventure (DCA), we put together a list of our picks for the Top 10 DCA Attractions! This is Part 2, so make sure to read Part 1 first! Also, with so many attractions, some favorites are bound be left out. If your favorite attraction isn’t here, you might find it on our list for the Top Underrated Disney California Adventure Attractions instead! Please understand; Every effort was made to be as inclusive as possible!

[NOTE: Want to see some more Disney Parks fun? Check out our 2 lists for the Top 10 Underrated Disneyland Attractions; HERE and HERE. Also, please check out our ‘Underrated Disney’ series which inspired this post; including Underrated Sidekicks Part 1 and Part 2, and Underrated Animation!]

So, without further ado…

 

Toy Story Midway Mania

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the vintage-looking boardwalk poster is great!

 

Toy Story Midway Mania is an absolute blast! There’s interactive Toy Story fun for everyone! Now you can enter the world of your favorite toys as they invite you to come play some classic Midway games that Andy owns! Become a toy and play along with Woody, Buzz, and all their pals as you try to beat your ride buddy in head-to-head competitive gameplay. Grandparents don’t have to worry about being good at video games, the Imagineers somehow designed the ride to level the playing field for everyone! It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s creative…and as the theme song says; it’s insania!

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It truly is a blast!

Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission Breakout

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It will never live up to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, but it’s not a bad ride either!

First things first; we at Disney Magic Fanatic really, really miss the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. There will never be any ride that can truly replace it! However, we think the new ride isn’t that bad! Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission Breakout provides a fun and irreverent journey into the heart of the Marvel Universe with a wild ride jam-packed with classic tunes, zany characters, Marvel Easter-eggs, and even new performances from the original cast! While some longtime Disneyland fans are upset about the change, and rightfully so, we understand Disney’s decision on the issue; better to change it to a Disney property now, then wait for the CBS/Disney contract to expire (CBS owns the Twilight Zone). All in all, it’s no Tower of Terror, but it’s still pretty good! Who knows, maybe DCA’s plans for a Marvel Land will be worth the change!

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WE MISS YOU TOWER OF TERROR! A TRIBUTE POST IS COMING SOON!

 

 

Radiator Springs Racers

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This cute poster purposefully mimics Disneyland’s Autopia poster.

Get your kicks on Route 66! The 2012 12-acre expansion was the largest expansion at the Disneyland Resort Ever (Star Wars-Galaxy’s Edge will only beat it by two acres), and Cars Land’s Radiator Springs Racers was set to be the cherry on top of it all. Disney promised us a very special ‘E-ticket’ Pixar thrill. We can say that it certainly delivered on its promise!  The Imagineers spared no expense to create one of the most elaborate, technically advanced, and expensive attractions at any Disney Park. Now you can ride along with all your favorite Cars characters and then race your friends and family across a gorgeously rendered desert landscape! The Cars Animatronics are truly amazing and lifelike, the scenes are completely immersive, and the attention to detail is breathtaking! Trust us, it’s worth the 60-minute waits! JUST WATCH OUT FOR FRANK!

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Radiator Springs Racers may be the best ride in the area, but all of Cars Land is great!

Soarin’ Around the World

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it was originally called Soarin’ Over California.

 

There is no experience in the world quite like Soarin’! This ride was one of the very few things about DCA’s opening day that was truly amazing. Surprisingly, Soarin’ is a DCA original; it was created at DCA first, and then transplanted to WDW and other Disney Parks later. The reason for this becomes quite clear when a guest feels themselves launch into the sky and into the adventure of a lifetime. It’s very hard to explain why Soarin’ is so amazing unless you have experienced it; it’s indescribable. Perhaps it’s the gorgeous score, the stunning vistas, the revolutionary ride vehicles, or maybe it’s the fact that you can smell the landscapes you pass? Whatever causes Soarin’ to be such an awe-inspiring journey, it truly defines the term ‘Disney Magic’. It is EPIC!

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we do miss the old California version, but the updated film is truly breathtaking!

World of Color

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Concept art for the beloved classic.

There is no question about it; the World of Color is the quintessential show at DCA. Disneyland has Fantasmic, and DCA has this equally-amazing spectacle of lights and imagination. This DCA original show is full of gorgeous scenes from dozens of Disney films projected onto walls of water that tower over your heads. The special effects are amazing, the colors are astounding, and the soundtrack will melt your heart! Loosely based on the TV-show Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, this experience is not to be missed. In fact, it has been known to bring many longtime Disney fans to tears! Get a seat right at the front if you can; from there, the show looms above you and takes on an epic scale that will make you feel like you’re inside the show! Trust us, you must see this award-winning show!

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The world is a carousel of color!

 

Enjoy our list? Like and subscribe! new posts coming weekly! Until next time, we hope you have a magical week!

 

Top 10 Disney California Adventure Attractions Pt. 1

Top 10 Disney California Adventure Attractions Pt. 1

Top 10 Disney California Adventure Attractions Part 1

Disney California Adventure (DCA) may have received some bad-press in the past, but the 2012 re-dedication has really turned that around! Now it truly feels like a Disney Park. To honor Disneyland’s newer sibling, we’ve put together a list for the Top 10 DCA Attractions! Please note that, with so many attractions, some favorites might be left out. If your favorite isn’t here, you might find it on our list for the Top 5 Underrated DCA Attractions! Please understand; Every effort was made to be as inclusive as possible!

[Note: Don’t forget, this is part 1of 2! Part 2 comes next week! want to see our list for the Top 5 Underrated Disney California Adventure Attractions? Or maybe our lists for the Top 10 Underrated Disneyland Attractions Part 1 and Part 2]

So, without further ado…

 

Red Car Trolleys

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Cute vintage poster!

The Red Car Trolleys are the cherry on top of DCA’s relatively recent updates. The Imagineers really outdid themselves trying to fix DCA’s problems and bring it the signature Disney Magic it so rightly deserved. Now a scenic ride on the famous Red Car Trolleys provides that extra detail that fully immerses guests into the world of imagination. Just like the Disneyland Railroad, the Red Car Trolleys have become DCA’s signature mode of transportation! Welcome to the Hollywood of the Golden Age; not exactly presented how it really was, but rather how we remember it in our hearts! Just like Main Street at Disneyland, DCA’s Buena Vista Street takes us on a nostalgic journey to something quintessentially American; torn straight out of our romantic dreams of old Hollywood. With these beautifully crafted replicas of the famous vehicles, we finally feel as if the illusion is completed. Now we know that DCA is a Disney park; with the magic that we have come to expect from one!

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The Red Car Trolley Newsboy Show is a real treat!

California Screamin’

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Seriously…the vintage poster theme was a GREAT IDEA!

A rip-roaring ride over Paradise Pier, California Screamin’ truly is a great experience. While not as completely immersive as other coasters at the resort like Big Thunder Mountain or Space Mountain, California Screamin’ is still one of the best attractions at DCA. Have any adrenaline junkies in your party? Then this ride is a must-see! Themed to the old beautiful wooden coasters of seaside boardwalks, Californa Screamin’ takes guests on a ride that they won’t forget. Don’t worry, the coaster only looks like one of those rickety wooden coasters. It’s really made of super-safe steel and won’t break your back with its bumps and jolts! It may simulate the clickety-clack of one of those ancient rides, but it’s much more advanced than that. Are you scared someone down on the boardwalk will hear you scream? Not to worry; the revolutionary technology of the ride has scream buffers to muffle the sound! Just trust us, it’s worth the screamin’!

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It certainly adds a lot of beauty to the pier landscape!

It’s Tough to Be a Bug

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Original Advertisement at WDW.

Ever wanted to see what the world looked like from the perspective of a bug? Ever wanted to talk to a grasshopper? Anything is possible at Disneyland Resort! In It’s Tough to Be a Bug, the Imagineers shrink you down to the size of an insect and plop you into the whimsical world of Pixar’s A Bug’s Life! Join inventor Flik for an educational show about how bugs aren’t that bad after all. The show is completely immersive and, via interactive technology hidden throughout the theater and the seats, really pulls you in! Originally created as Animal Kingdom’s premiere attraction (receiving the honor of playing inside the iconic Tree of Life), this show really is spectacular! The show includes a 3D film, live Audio-Animatronics (including a very advanced Hopper figure), water jets, real-time scents, live-action props, and even bugs that crawl under you right where you sit! Trust us, you won’t understand until you experience this attraction for yourself!

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The Hopper Animatronic is super complex!

Frozen-Live at the Hyperion

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The show is quite beautiful and elaborate.

We cannot stress enough about how good this show is! Yes, we are very sad that the phenomenal show ‘Aladdin-Live at the Hyperion’ had to go away, but the show that replaced it is just as beautiful! A little-known fact; the Aladdin show that was originally created for this theater was the main inspiration for the super-popular Broadway performance! To make way for Prince Ali to move onto Broadway, the show was replaced with one based on the ever-popular Frozen film. Now you can relive the movie again in a live performance full of high-quality sets, costumes, music, and production design. The high-caliber show will have you singing ‘Let It Go’ all day long again! With puppetry, pageantry, lights, music, and imagination, Frozen-Live at the Hyperion is a truly breathtaking show! Thaw your frozen heart with the true love and sisterhood of this Disney classic! And now that Frozen is getting its turn on Broadway, who knows might be coming next to DCA’s famous Hyperion Theater!

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The actor/singers are some of the best the resort has to offer.

Grizzly River Run

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Grizzly Peak, DCA’s original icon, adds a breathtaking vista to the park’s landscape!

An Opening Day attraction, Grizzly River Run was one of the few original things about DCA that seemed to avoid scrutiny. The ride was good enough that it avoided much of the backlash and disappointment of fans who had come to the park in the early days of its operation. We fully understand why it survived! This ride is a rollicking adventure on a careening river of mayhem and fun. Take a trip into the California wilderness and brave the rapids of DCA’s original icon, Grizzly Peak! Face the temperamental geysers, brave the plummeting falls, smell the fresh pines, and see if you can endure the growling winds of Grizzly Peak’s cave! Just remember, you will get wet! WE ARE NOT KIDDING!

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What a splash!

Enjoy our list? Like and subscribe! new posts coming weekly! Until next time, we hope you have a magical week!