Top 5: Disneyland Stories You Didn’t Know

The Disneyland park are filled with details and with this being Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, those details now span decades and the stories behind the narrative of the parks gets jumbled. I’m here now to tell you the stories behind or of some Disneyland attractions that you probably don’t know. The Disney Archives is full of information about imagineers and cast members, lost attraction concept artwork, attractions that never got built, and much more, but so much of that information is kept away from the public eye. So here are my top 5 Disneyland stories you didn’t know.



#5-Fantasyland Dark Rides. When Disneyland originally opened, the dark rides in Fantasyland never included their main protagonists. Why is that? Walt Disney’s idea of riding through his stories was to put the park guest in the role of Alice or Peter Pan or Snow White. So if you rode Alice in Wonderland, you’d see all of the characters except for Alice because you were the one playing that part. Guests were confused, but the attractions stayed the way they were until 1983’s remodel of Fantasyland into a European village. Then animatronic figures were added to attractions and the attractions became retellings of the stories rather than putting guests into the story itself.

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#4-Storybook Land Canal Boats. Walt’s plans for a miniature village and boat ride precedes Disneyland. In fact, the original amusement park plans thought up by Walt was to have a small lot across from the studio where you’d ride or walk through a miniature city. As plans expanded into a larger Disneyland in Anaheim, Walt thought up “Lilliputian Land” a section of the park with a miniature city. Again the concept was changed into just a single attraction within Disneyland. Prior to Storybook Land, the attraction was called Canal Boats Around the World and featured miniature versions of major landmarks. The attraction only lasted two months after the park opened in 1955 due to boat motors constantly breaking down and the lack of anything beyond dirt around the miniatures. The attraction reopened in June 1956 as Storybook Land Canal Boats. (Read More About It Here!)

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#3-Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. If you’ve been to Disneyland, I’m sure you’ve taken a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but did you know Imagineers have a backstory to this roller coaster? The story goes that in the late 1800s, miners struck gold at Thunder Mountain and the town quickly got bigger with nearly everyone digging and blasting their way in but the mountain was sacred ground to the Native Americans that once lived there. A natural disaster came, caused by upset spirits, and the town was abandoned. Later the trains were found running the track on their own, possibly possessed by the spirits of the mountain, so the area became a tourist destination allowing tourists to ride in possessed trains. Weird right?

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#2-Matterhorn Bobsleds. When Walt had a moat constructed around Sleeping Beauty Castle, he had the dirt piled up just across from the castle and just left it there. The giant pile of dirt was seen by opening day guests. Not knowing what to do with it, the dirt just sat there. The area was rarely used or travelled and by 1956 it had become the park’s makeout spot. Walt hated that this dirt mound wasn’t being used and that teens had turned it into some sort of lovers lane. After a trip to Switzerland, Walt himself decided that the large pile of dirt would be turned into a tobagan ride in a Swiss mountain. The new technology of the wild mouse coaster, a small one/two person vehicle on a steel track, fit the imagery Walt wanted to convey. So the dirt mountain was hollowed out and became The Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction.

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#1-Haunted Mansion. The Haunted Mansion is buried in mystery. There isn’t one exact storyline to fit the attraction. Instead cast members tend to tell multiple stories to explain the happenings within the mansion. My favorite version of the storyline is this: Master Gracey,  a fisherman and the mansion’s owner, was recently married, but the woman he married had killed many of her rich husbands. To save the master, Madame Leota, who also loves Gracey, kills his new wife.  Unfortunately his grief overpowers him and instead of falling for Leota, he hangs himself. This leaves the bride, Gracey, and Leota to haunt the mansion forever along with the others buried in the graveyard.  Again, there are multiple stories, and this isn’t a story I would relay to children riding the attraction for the first time, but it loosely fits what happens. (Read More About It Here!)

Any stories you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and let me know what kind of back story you have! I’d love to hear it.

Josh Taylor
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Posted on January 18, 2015, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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