I’ve had the fortune to “grow up” at the Magic Kingdom in Central Florida.
My family took me there the year the park opened and over the subsequent 45 years I’ve had the opportunity to return that magical place countless times. I can recall when attractions required tickets A-E and have many happy memories as a former cast member (having worked the resorts in the mid-eighties to more recently enjoying the role of a bellhop at the Hollywood Tower Hotel). The peak of my pixie-dust powered journey was interviewing Disney Legends Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr and Tony Baxter at a recent D23 event in Orlando.
I’ve witnessed Walt’s Florida Project grow from just being the Magic Kingdom and the three original resorts (Polynesian Village Resort, Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Campground) to the 6 park (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) multiple hotel resort that it is today. Hundreds of changes and renovations took place along that 45 year span. As I leap into my 50th year on this planet, my mind wanders to this Favorite Five – attractions that are no longer around at the Magic Kingdom.
#5 Main Street Cinema
The Main Street Cinema (along with the nearby Magic Shop) – childhood/teen favorites at the park’s entrance. In this darkened small, several screened room running silent movies of Disney cartoon classics. It was a favorite spot, with no line, to cool off and catch my breath before wandering off on the next attraction adventure. The Cinema is still partially around – except that it’s now a shop (Art of Disney) for Disney collectibles and artwork. One screen remains, still sharing its cartoon classic.
#4 Sky Way
Guests could board from either Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. The Skyway was fun because it offered a bird’s eye view of the attractions below. I especially enjoyed the view of the submarine lagoon from the next attraction on the list.
This YouTube video shows that spectacular view (and a MUCH different Magic Kingdom):
#3 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
I was mesmerized by this faux journey into liquid space. I recall the thrill of the dive and the excitement of the giant squid’s attack. The Harper Goff designed Nautilus will always be one my favorite Disney vehicles. Today, the new Fantasyland Ariel ride takes the place of the submarine lagoon/ride; if you look closely in the queue, you can find a tribute to the Nautilus embedded in the rock work
#2 Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
This whimsical jaunt through England on Toad’s motor car was sheer delight (and, for me, much more fun than the race cars of Tomorowland). I can still recall the alarming head-on train collision and subsequent trip down below.
#1 ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
While a much more tame (and smelly – yuck, chili dogs) version of the dark attraction exists in Stitch’s Great Escape, it will never compare to what many believe to be Disney’s darkest attraction. A monstrous alien breaks loose and the attraction “breaks down.” It was the use of brilliant and immersive audio suggestion and the small effects – like the hot breath of the monster alien on my neck that gave the attraction a feel of real terror. The ‘splatter’ of one of the ‘maintenance staff’ being eaten (bursts of water sprayed over guests), may have been too much for guests and the attraction was closed in 2003. Being a fan of dark and horror based amusements; this was the ultimate since it left much of the mayhem to the imagination. (BONUS – I do recall both the Mission to the Moon and Mission to Mars incarnations of the main arena, and count both among childhood favorites as well).