Magic Kingdom – History
The Magic Kingdom of the 1970s was far different than the park of today. Many guests visit only a couple of times in their life, and many years tend to pass between visits. Consequently, guests become confused upon entering the park, to see some of their favorite attractions missing, with new rides in their place. While it would be almost impossible to create an accurate list of every single ride, show, shop, parade, restaurant, and so forth that has changed over the years, and overall timeline can help you plan your visit accurately.
The Disney World Magic Kingdom Theme Park opened on October 1, 1971, and was an immediate success. Designed as a larger version of the California original, the new park also allowed Disney to start fresh, using lessons learned in Disneyland to create an even better park.
For many years, the Magic Kingdom held six lands: Main Street, USA, Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Most attractions required the use of a separate ticket for entrance. Ticket categories ranged from A to E . Disney World Tickets were generally sold in books containing between seven and eleven tickets of various categories. The ride’s classification was based on a combination of factors, with thrill rides always claiming an E rating. As a point of interest, Disney’s ride classification system inspired the still-used phrase “E-ticket ride.”
Many beloved attractions did not yet exist when the park opened. Such icons as Space Mountain opened later in the 1970s, as part of ongoing and rapid expansion. Pirates of the Caribbean, now one of the most well-known attractions, was never meant to be part of the Magic Kingdom at all. The Imaginers believed that since Florida was so close to real pirate lore, residents would not be interested in a pirate-themed ride. Instead, the designs were created for an elaborate Wild West-themed attraction in a similar vein. However, public outcry over the omission of Pirates was dramatic, and Thunder Mesa was quickly scrapped in order to bring the Pirates to Florida. The attraction finally opened in 1973.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, new attractions, shops, restaurants, and entertainment were added frequently. The Swan Boats, long plagued by mechanical difficulties, closed in 1983, never to be replaced (although the loading dock still stands). A few other attractions closed as well, in addition to some shops and restaurants, but for the most part, the focus was on expansion. In 1974, plans were announced for the newest park, EPCOT Center , and the ground was broken in 1979.
EPCOT’s plan caused trouble with the ticket book admission media. As an entirely different type of park, EPCOT’s attractions would not be suited to A through E classifications. Thus, admission media at the Magic Kingdom was transitioned throughout 1980, and by the end of the year the ticket books were discontinued altogether in favor of all-inclusive one price admission.
Magic Kingdom attractions roster was largely ignored during the late 1980s as efforts focused on the newest gated parks, Disney Hollywood Studios and Pleasure Island, both of which opened, along with the Typhoon Lagoon water park , in 1989.
The 1990s brought the most significant and controversial changes ever to take place in the Magic Kingdom. The most overarching change was to Tomorrowland. Ever since Future World opened at EPCOT Center (now Epcot) in 1982, Disney battled with keeping Tomorrowland from seeming dated. In 1994, an elaborate renovation was undertaken. Tomorrowland was repainted, many attractions changed or renamed, and reopened with an intentionally retro feel, billed as “The future that never was, and always will be.”
The Tomorrowland rehab met with mixed, but ultimately fairly positive reviews. Many of the other decisions made for the Magic Kingdom at this time were not so fortunate. The 1994 closing of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea stirred the first wave of serious protest. The ride closed quietly, with no fanfare or even warning. Outraged fans wrote letters and called the company, wanting to know when they would get their ride back, but to no avail.
It was not until 1996 that Disney finally admitted that 20,000 Leagues would never reopen. This blow was followed only two years later by the announcement that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride would be demolished to make room for an attraction based on Winnie the Pooh.
After the way, 20,000 Leagues’ closing was handled, neither Disney nor fans wanted to approach Toad’s closing in the same way. Disney announced the upcoming closing, in an effort to minimize protest by allowing guests the chance for the last ride. Mr. Toad made his last Wild Ride at the Magic Kingdom on September 7, 1998.
In July 2004, after ten years the 20,000 Leagues lagoon was drained and the set destroyed. The lagoon was filled with dirt and the long-awaited new attraction went in. The new attraction? A playland for children called Pooh’s Thotful Spot. Whether this event was connected to the no-confidence vote or not is open to speculation, but fans were less than thrilled with the new attraction.
Following this was one of the largest expansions in magic Kingdom. Disney added to Fantasyland making it double its size. They added Journey of the Little Mermaid and Snow White’s Mine Cart. The widely popular Be Our Guest Restaurant and Gaston’s Tavern were added as well.
Due to Hollywood Studios’ large lands being added with Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge, Epcot’s complete renovation and the struggles of the pandemic things have slowed further expansions to Magic Kingdom. Soon, however, a new ride will be opening: Tron’s Lightcycle. It is a replica of the Shanghai Disneyland coaster and fans are excitedly waiting for something new to Magic Kingdom.