Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, drawing direct inspiration from California’s Disneyland. When Walt Disney first conceived his original park, he explained that “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” And while Walt never lived to see the inaugural park of the Walt Disney World Resort open its doors to guests, the Imagineers that maintain and create attractions for the Magic Kingdom have upheld this idea across the past fifty years: that the Magic Kingdom will never be completed, but must continually be updated to serve the needs and interests of the current generation. However, being Disney fans themselves, Imagineers do this while still maintaining the original integrity and nostalgic history of a park that has existed for half a century. This fascinating dichotomy–continuously updating and renewing the park while still recognizing its much-beloved history–is part of what makes the Magic Kingdom so endearing by the millions that visit it each year.
1 – Red, White, and Blue
This park oozes Americana. Whether guests live in rural North Carolina, urban New England, the rugged west, or suburban Michigan, the attractions, lands, theming, and architecture of the Magic Kingdom appeal to the souls of every visitor. While Main Street, USA depicts and America from more than a century ago, the small-town feel of this land representing a much simpler time stirs the soul while reminding guests, whether they realize it or not, of the humble origins of this park and the company that created it. Most Americans, at some point, had a fascination in their youth with “cowboys and Indians,” and Frontierland plays into this. With architecture that represents a town somewhere in the Wild West, this land excites the young-at-heart to revisit the dusty legends of the 1800s and, for a little while at least, pretend to be a mercenary or an outlaw once again. Liberty Square evokes the more stoic and proud notions of America’s founding, reminding us of the ideals by which we live. And Tomorrowland’s Carousel of Progress demonstrates the very American notions of innovation and ingenuity, leading us to be optimistic about our future.
2 – A Fitting Sequel
The Magic Kingdom draws heavy inspiration from the company’s original park, Disneyland. Those who are well-familiar with the Magic Kingdom find visiting Disneyland almost eerie: it feels familiar enough to navigate about but different enough that one experiences a whole new experience, as though the two exist as variants in different parts of the Multiverse. While larger and a little different, the Magic Kingdom still holds much of the same charm of its predecessor, including many of the original touches of Walt himself, albeit upgraded.
3 – New Technology and Old Effects
The Magic Kingdom features a great blend of the most updated audio-animatronics technologies and computing power while still utilizing many special effects that originated in old stage performances and vaudevillian theatre. For instance, while the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin feature rear projection mapping, the Haunted Mansion still holds wide appeal through its use of mirrors and Pepper’s Ghost effects. It is this marriage between the classic special effects and the most updated innovations that continue to impress guests.
4 – A Range of Character
The Magic Kingdom recognizes that it needs to appeal to everyone, first-time guests and park veterans alike. To stay relevant, Disney has added various IPs to the Magic Kingdom over the years. While some of these IPs are very obvious, such as the world of Monstropolis at the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, others simply add to the theming or the story being told, such as Rapunzel’s tower and restrooms on the west side of Fantasyland. However, the Magic Kingdom also introduces parkgoers to new characters and stories, as well. Lost river safaris and adventurers are discovered in Adventureland’s Jungle Cruise and Skipper Canteen restaurant. Guests find themselves roaring and singing along to the tunes performed in the Country Bear Jamboree. And many find themselves simultaneously laughing and screaming in the dark corridors of the Haunted Mansion. All of these show that Disney’s Imagineers have been able to convey the storytelling experience Disney is best known for whether guests are familiar with the characters or not.
5 – A Cornucopia of Flavors
Theme park food is notorious for being terrible. Guests who visit the Magic Kingdom for the first time fully expect to eat nothing but hamburgers, chicken strips, and French fries. However, the Magic Kingdom offers a plethora of dining options that are not only delicious, but well known. Rather than opting for a simple vanilla ice cream cone, guests can enjoy a Pineapple Dole Whip. For the grown-up kids is a grown-up macaroni at the Friar’s Nook in Fantasyland: Creamy Macaroni and Cheese over tatortots. For those who desire a more refined dining experience, Be Our Guest Restaurant offers French fare, including Poulet Rouge Chicken and the famous “Grey Stuff” mousse. These, plus dozens of other unique restaurant dishes at the Magic Kingdom, really give the park a “turkey leg”-up on the competition!
6 – Laugh[ing] and Play[ing] and Learn[ing] Together
Perhaps the greatest part of the Magic Kingdom is the fact that it truly is a park for everyone: it does not live up to the stereotype as Disney World’s “kiddie park.” While the Magic Kingdom does have tamer attractions, such as The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh or Peter Pan’s Flight, these attractions can be enjoyed by adults just as much. Even the thrill rides are not too thrilling: small children can scream in delight as they plummet down Chick-a-Pin Hill alongside their grandparents on Splash Mountain.
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