Have you ever wondered about the story behind some of the original, classic attractions at Disneyland and Disney World theme parks? The Imagineers and cast members at Disney parks work very hard to ensure your visit to Disneyland, Disney World and other parks transport you to another time and place–where the worries of the modern world are left behind at the gates and daily concerns melt away.
Well…stuff happens. The fact is, attractions break down, the lights need to come on and despite their best efforts, the veil is lifted. Nowadays, that means that the phones come out and photos are instantly posted online revealing what things look like behind the scenes. For millions of fans and park visitors, how things work backstage is a source of ongoing fascination. Some people see magic tricks and but can’t rest until they find out how the illusion really works. Much is the same for us who can’t get enough backstage photos and inside information on how things really work behind the magic curtain. It’s yet another dimension of our fascination (and sometimes frustration) with all things Disney.
Check out the photos and information below for the inside scoop on some of Disney’s most famous attractions!
A space-themed, indoor roller coaster ride. The original Space Mountain coaster opened in 1975 at Walt Disney World in Florida, which was a descendant of the first Disney “mountain” attraction – the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland in California – which had opened in 1959. The Matterhorn’s success convinced Walt Disney that thrilling coaster rides DID have a place in his theme parks. Space Mountain at Disneyland/California opened on May 27, 1977 and included the roller coaster ride itself, an 1100-seat Space Stage, a 670-seat Space Place (fast food restaurant), and Starcade (video game area).
The Haunted Mansion – Photos of Classic Attractions at Disneyland and Disney World
This attraction features a ride-through tour of the Mansion in Omnimover vehicles called “Doom Buggies,” as well as a walk-through “show” displayed to riders waiting in line. The attraction utilizes a wide range of technology from theatrics to modern special effects, featuring spectral Audio-Animatronics. The idea for the Mansion goes back to when plans were being made to build a New Orleans-themed land in the small transition area between Frontierland and Adventureland at Disneyland. New Orleans itself and old, southern plantations were researched and drawings of an antebellum manor overgrown with weeds, dead trees, swarms of bats, and boarded doors and windows were designed. Walt Disney himself also visited the Winchester House in San Jose, CA and was captivated by the massive mansion with stairs to nowhere and doors that opened to walls and holes, and wanted some of these ideas used in the new attraction. The Mansion opened to guests on August 12, 1969 and was an immediate success.
Adventure Through Inner Space
An attraction in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland that simulated shrinking guests to a size smaller than an atom (the “inner space”), then taking them on a tour of snowflakes at molecular and atomic levels. The ride opened on August 5, 1967 as part of the new Tomorrowland, and closed in 1985 to make way for Disney’s new Star Tours attraction which opened in early 1987. Inner Space was the first ride to use the Omnimover system of guest transportation – vehicles were dubbed “Atomobiles” for this attraction. References to this ride have been featured in its replacement Star Tours – such as a miniature Atomobile that could be seen among the scraps passing overhead in the “Droidnostics Center,” and guests could also catch a glimpse of the Mighty Microscope from the Inner Space ride as their StarSpeeder exits a tunnel in the Death Star!
Disney “Utilidor” System – Photos of Classic Attractions at Disneyland and Disney World
Short for “utility corridors,” this system of tunnels is part of Disney’s behind-the-scenes staging area. According to modern legend, Walt Disney was bothered by the sight of, for example, a cowboy walking through Disneyland’s Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland. Walt felt that such a sight detracted from the guest experience. Since Disneyland was relatively small this tunnel system couldn’t really be implemented there, but when Florida’s Magic Kingdom was being planned, engineers designed utilidors to keep park operations out of guests’ sight. Cast members navigate the tunnels on foot or in golf cart-type vehicles for purposes such as traveling between “lands,” waste removal, deliveries and storage, and food service (prep kitchens are housed in the utilidors).
Walt Disney always had a fondness for trains. As a young boy, he wanted to become a train engineer. As he grew older, his interest in trains evolved into larger, ridable miniature trains. As an adult he purchased 5 acres in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles to build a home for his family, and at that time he started construction of an elaborate, ridable, miniature Carolwood Pacific Railroad in his backyard. Friends and neighbors even came to ride his backyard railroad on weekends! This train system in Walt’s backyard was the inspiration for the Disneyland Railroad – in fact, when Disneyland itself was in the blueprint stages it was Walt Disney himself who drew the route for the future Railroad on the park’s site plans. The Disneyland Railroad opened to the public on Disneyland Park’s grand opening date of July 17, 1955.
Pirates of the Caribbean – Photos of Classic Attractions at Disneyland and Disney World
This ride opened at Disneyland on March 18, 1967 and was the last attraction that Walt Disney himself participated in designing – unfortunately he died three months before the ride’s debut. The ride is based on the 1950 movie “Treasure Island,” which in turn was based on the book of the same name written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883. The attraction is located within the New Orleans Square portion of Disneyland, with a façade that is reminiscent of antebellum-era New Orleans. It was originally envisioned as a subterranean, walk-thru wax museum (!), but with the success of the boat-ride concept used in “It’s a Small World” at the 1964 World’s Fair, Disney decided to employ that same ride system in Pirates of the Caribbean. Across from the boarding area of the ride is the Blue Bayou Restaurant, which is made to look like the backyard party of a southern plantation. The restaurant opened on the same day as the ride in 1967. In 2006 the attraction was refurbished in order to tie it in with the then-new “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” film. The changes included the addition of Jack Sparrow animatronics to several of the rides “scenes.”
This attraction is a simulated riverboat cruise located in Adventureland and was ready for Disneyland’s grand opening in 1955. Animatronic jungle animals are displayed along the shores of the river, and a live, Disney cast member acts as a boat skipper/tour guide who provides passengers with a comedic narrative as they cruise down the river. Origins of this attraction trace back to the 1940s when Walt Disney Pictures began production of their “True-Live Adventure Series,” which were wildlife documentaries that followed various groups of animals in their natural habitats. Because of the immense success of the series, Walt Disney planned to include something related to it in his theme park from the beginning. Original plans were to use live animals along the shores of the river, but once creators realized the animals would probably sleep during the day these plans were abandoned! Creators of the attraction also drew inspiration for the design of the Jungle Cruise boats from the river steamer used in the movie “The African Queen.”
Matterhorn Bobsleds – Photos of Classic Attractions at Disneyland and Disney World
Disneyland in California is the only Disney theme park with the Matterhorn ride. The idea for the attraction grew from Walt Disney’s extended vacation in Switzerland while filming “Third Man on the Mountain.” Walt was impressed by the beauty of the real Matterhorn mountain and sent instructions back to his theme park team to “build this.” This direction resulted in the intertwined, bobsled coaster ride that runs within a wood and steel infrastructure replica of the actual Matterhorn mountain, which debuted at Disneyland on June 14, 1959 as the park’s first “thrill” ride. The man-made, rock mountain is doused in white paint to make it look snow-covered. Believe it or not, there is actually a half-basketball court inside the Matterhorn infrastructure, which is now mostly used for storage. According to Tony Baxter, Senior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney himself gave the ok to create the improvised court when it was discovered the upper two-thirds of the mountain had some open space.
Walt Disney’s Apartment on Main Street USA
During the construction of Disneyland, Walt wanted a private place where he could watch his dreams come to life. Once Disneyland opened, he wanted to watch the crowds streaming in to enjoy his creation while he was hidden from view. So, he had an apartment built above Disneyland’s Firehouse on Main Street. It includes a small kitchen, bathroom, family room, and a wooden desk by the window overlooking Main Street, where Walt occasionally worked as he watched the activity going on below. The apartment is decorated in a red and white firehouse theme and at one point housed many antiques that Walt and his wife, Lillian, collected during their travels. It also has a back terrace that overlooks the Jungle Cruise ride, but it is hidden from public view by large trees and shrubbery. To this day, the light from a small lamp is left on in the window where Walt once stood and marveled at his beloved theme park. The light symbolizes that his spirit is still alive at Disneyland.
Magic Kingdom Wardrobe Department – Photos of Classic Attractions at Disneyland and Disney World
There’s an imposing warehouse located on a nondescript road near the Magic Kingdom in Orlando – visitors who spot it don’t think it’s anything special. But inside is row upon row of colorful costumes where thousands of Disney cast members check out their work-related apparel each day. There is a constant flow of people and activity from morning to evening. At the end of each day’s work, cast members drop their worn costume into a chute outside the building, where it is scanned back in and shipped to Disney’s textile factory to be laundered and restocked for the next use.