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If you are a fan of traditional Disney cartoons, the Fantasyland area at Anaheim’s Disneyland Park is probably for you. By stepping through the enormous replica of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, guests enter a world of fairy tales, magic, and classic Disney style. Although most of the rides in this section of Disneyland are aimed toward children, they are enjoyable and often nostalgic for adult riders as well.
Fantasyland was one of the original areas of the park, and contains many rides from the earliest days of Disneyland. Many of the rides are dark ride retellings of favorite Disney stories, where riders board small cars or boats that carry them through the entire story. The architectural style of the area is an interesting mix, from the medieval area surrounding the castle to the Bavarian-style buildings that house many of the rides and shops.
In 1955, when the park opened, Fantasyland contained several rides that still operate in the park as of 2008. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, King Arthur’s Carousel, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride were all part of the park on opening day. While many of these rides follow the fairly benign story-lines of famous films, beware with young children. Many of them feature villainous characters, such as Monstro or Snow White’s evil stepmother, that jump out without warning. If you are traveling with a child who has a fear of a particular villain, you may want to skip any rides that may contain it.
One of the rides either loved or despised by visitors is the remarkable It’s a Small World. Disney premiered the ride at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, as an example of the animatronics innovations of the Disney company. The shallow boat ride takes passengers through enormous dioramas depicting children from many countries all over the world, dancing and singing. The musical accompaniment for the ride, written by famed Disney composers Richard and Robert Sherman, seems to inspire rage in some patrons for its continual repetition during the long ride. At Christmas, the ride is completely re-done with a holiday theme, including a spectacular outdoor light show and Christmas carols mixed in with the regular music.
Fantasyland has a few secrets up its sleeves, well-known to park regulars. If you are standing in the usually long line for Peter Pan’s Flight, face away from the ride and look up at the second story above Snow White’s Scary Adventures. You may be surprised to see the evil queen popping out from behind a curtain to stare down at you. Although closed since 2001, the Sleeping Beauty Castle long contained a little-visited walkthrough attraction, featuring scenes and music telling the story of the princess. As you walk through the castle, notice a strange brass spike embedded in the ground that marked the geographic center of the original park, long changed since the expansion of the grounds.
The Fantasyland area contains many rides geared toward children, and as such is usually very crowded for most of the day. Strategies to avoid lines include hitting the area first in the day, or waiting until late at night when most families with children have departed. Some rides that are out of the main portion of Fantasyland, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Tea Party, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, may not get as crowded at first, making them excellent choices to ride early in the day.
Fantasyland offers a look at the best movies of Disneyland, and a true appreciation for childhood innocence. With its classic fairy-tale style and immersive ride environments, it is a favorite of many nostalgic fans. The area is meant to honor the ideas of dreams and wishes, and as Walt Disney himself said, is “dedicated to the young at heart and those who believe that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”
*Update- The Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough has reopened in Fantasyland, allowing visitors to view the story of Sleeping Beauty through a series of dioramas, some of them interactive. The entrance to this walkthrough experience is on the back side of the castle, near the Bippity Boppity Boutique.
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