Soooo much has changed in Disney World in 50 years!
From new rides and whole new parks to iconic new snacks, it’s safe to say that Disney looks very different than it did way back in 1971. As we prepare to celebrate Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, let’s wind back the clock and see what Magic Kingdom looked like 50 years ago!
A lot can change in half a century. Magic Kingdom is proof of that! While it’s certainly the most nostalgic park for so many reasons, a lot of it is unrecognizable compared to how it looked on opening day on October 1st, 1971!
With so many new rides, restaurants, and attractions added over the years, this means a lot of O.G. elements are LONG gone! Consider this your Magic Kingdom time capsule!
What Things Were Like Opening Day
Compared to the look and feel of Magic Kingdom in 1971, the park is SUPER different today (and also, oddly, still exactly the same in many ways!)! On opening day 50 years ago, attendance was around 10,000 people, which seemed like a lackluster turnout at the time.
Today, before capacity restrictions were enforced, typical daily attendance at Magic Kingdom is about 60,000 people (most of whom like to swarm around Fantasyland apparently). 20.9 MILLION people visited the park in 2019, and it’s been the most visited theme park in the world for decades!
Admission in 1971 was a shocking $3.50 for adults, which is about the price of a churro nowadays, and just $1 for children. Also, guests had to pay for rides a la carte for additional fees, or they could buy Adventure Books, which bundled tickets with different ride options. These attraction tickets ranged from $0.10 for an “A” attraction ticket (like a ride on the Omnibus or Main Street, U.S.A. Horse Cars), all the way to $0.90 for an “E” attraction ticket (like a ride on the Jungle Cruise or The Haunted Mansion). And Adventure Books ranged from $4.40 to $6.50, depending on how many tickets you wanted.
Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $10 (the price of an adult admission ticket and the largest Adventure Book bundle) in 1971 is actually worth $66.75 in today’s economy. Considering a 1-day Park Ticket costs $109 today, that’s quite the price difference!
Another thing: alcohol was entirely prohibited in the park for many years, until Be Our Guest started selling wine and beer in 2012. To this day, you can’t openly consume alcohol on the streets of Magic Kingdom (you can in all the other theme parks) but you can imbibe beer and wine in any sit-down restaurant in the park.
Cinderella Castle is to Disney World what the Statue of Liberty is to New York City, or the Hollywood sign is to Los Angeles. It doesn’t get much more iconic than this!
But even an iconic structure experiences major changes over the years! The central castle was initially painted with light blues, grays, and pops of gold, and it had a LOT more greenery in front of it! (For a long time, the trees in front the castle were quite large and blocked a lot of the view after they grew in!)
The castle MOSTLY stayed this way for decades, until Disney made the zany choice to turn it into a gigantic pink birthday cake in 1996…we’ll still never quite wrap our heads around that. (TBH this is a much-debated “love it or leave it” choice in Disney history. Some on our team LOVED the pink cake castle, some not so much!)
It underwent another big makeover in 2005 to celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, with each tower covered in gold spirals and character statues!
Another odd choice was when Disney thought it was a totally normal idea to make the castle look like it had been vandalized by Stitch in 2004 for only ONE DAY. The castle was adorned in…toilet paper. This was in honor of the grand opening of now-gone Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland. It looked like a crime scene!
Most recently, in preparation for the 50th Anniversary Celebration, Cinderella Castle was painted pink in 2020…
…and enhanced with lots of pretty gold additions and signage!
Main Street, U.S.A.
As you entered the park in 1971, first impressions were very different than they are today, and a TON of things have changed and shifted around along Main Street, U.S.A.!
The Confectionary, Emporium, and Chapeau were all O.G. shops that remain, and The Crystal Palace was here, albeit in a different cafeteria-style format.
The Dapper Dans were also there on opening day, and their lovable singing and dancing have proven to be a timeless classic!
Lots of shops have disappeared over the years, including New Century Clock Shop, The Greenhouse, the Cup and Saucer China Shop, the Wonderland of Wax Candle Shop, Penny Arcade, Main Street Cinema, and Disney & Co. toy shop!
All the lands currently in place have remained the same since opening day, though they’ve obviously expanded and added numerous attractions, shops, and restaurants. As the most popular land in Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland has undergone some pretty significant changes.
Some original Fantasyland attractions that are no longer here include the Skyway (sorta like an early Skyliner ride, which connected Fantasyland with Tomorrowland. Now the space is occupied by Tangled-themed restrooms!), Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel (though this was simply renamed Prince Charming Regal Carrousel), Snow White’s Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and an indoor audio-animatronic stage show called Mickey Mouse Revue.
Of course, some of these attractions have seen new life with similar attractions, like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh where Mr. Toad once ran wild. The Mickey Mouse Revue was replaced by Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
By 2012, the land saw a HUGE expansion with New Fantasyland. The Fantasyland footprint essentially doubled in space. Dumbo the Flying Elephant was MOVED from the center of Fantasyland all the way over closer to Tomorrowland, where the ride capacity was doubled and was themed to live in a Storybook Circus area.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’s former home became Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast got some major representation with Be Our Guest Restaurant, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Gaston’s Tavern. Oh, and we got a little roller coaster called Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Beyond the rides, King Stephan’s Banquet Hall was the original restaurant inside Cinderella Castle, replaced by Cinderella’s Royal Table, and The Lancer’s Inn was initially in The Friar’s Nook space. There was also another spot, The Troubadour Tavern, next to Peter Pan’s Flight.
Shops gone from Fantasyland include Fantasyland Art Festival, Castle Camera Shop, Royal Candy Shop, and the Mad Hatter.
Now for what remains! Dumbo the Flying Elephant is still there (though it has moved locations like we mentioned!), Peter Pan’s Flight, it’s a small world, Mad Tea Party, and Pinocchio Village Haus all remain today.
For a land that bills itself on futuristic thinking and development, Tomorrowland has certainly lived up to its moniker with some pretty epic changes over the years!
The space-y land actually started off pretty sparse, with not much to do or eat here beyond Flight to the Moon (eventually renamed as Mission to Mars), the Grand Prix Raceway (now the Tomorrowland Speedway), Lunching Pad, and Tomorrowland Terrace, though it was initially in the Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe space.
To shop, there was Mickey’s Mart and the Skyway station shop. All in all, things were pretty sleepy in Tomorrowland. Rides were slowly added to the land including a number of niche attractions that were later replaced. Anyone remember Delta Dreamflight or ExtraTERRORestial Alien Encounter? Yep, those came and went along with a few others.
Delta Dreamflight actually replaced an attraction called “If You Could Fly.” Fun fact: the attraction that Delta Dreamflight replaced was first called “If You Had Wings,” but when Delta took over sponsorship from Eastern, it was renamed “If You Could Fly.” Again, ultimately this ride was replaced by Delta Dreamflight.
This land has come a LONG way with iconic attractions like Space Mountain, Carousel of Progress, Astro Orbiter, the PeopleMover opening later on, not to mention one of the most anticipated rides in all of Disney World that’s not even open yet: TRON Lightcycle Run.
There wasn’t a TON happening in Liberty Square back in the day, and TBH not a lot has changed. In 1971, the Americana land was home to Mike Fink Keel Boats, a cute little boat ride that explored the Rivers of America.
Gone is the Diamond Horseshoe Revue show, and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe used to be divvied into Old World Antiques, Mlle. Lafayette’s Parfumerie, and the Silversmith, with Yankee Pedlar where Memento Mori is today. The famous Liberty Belle riverboat has been riding the river since the park opened but it actually didn’t open until the SECOND day of operations in the park!
When Frontierland opened in 1971, there wasn’t much to it beyond Country Bear Jamboree and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. Tom Sawyer Island was there, but you couldn’t get to it quite yet. It didn’t open for nearly two years after the park opened.
Another attraction that WAS there was Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, and the Frontier Shooting Gallery used to have guns that shot lead pellets (it was probably for the best that Disney switched to infra-red lights…).
Aside from Pecos Bill, there used to be a dining spot called Mile Long Bar too (with a “neverending” mirror trick that made this “bar” seem, well, a mile long!). Nowadays, of course, Frontierland is home to some of Magic Kingdom’s most beloved attractions, like Splash Mountain (which will get a Princess and the Frog re-theme…eventually), Big Thunder Mountain, and Tom Sawyer Island!
In 1971, the only places for actual adventure in Adventureland were Jungle Cruise and Swiss Family Treehouse. The land’s other iconic ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, wouldn’t arrive until 1973. The often-told anecdote surrounding Pirates was that SO MANY guests asked Cast Members where the new pirate ride was when the park opened (having seen it so prominently featured in Disneyland on TV for years) that Disney World rushed to create the attraction on the East Coast, where it had not been planned.
Tropical Serenade was the precursor to Enchanted Tiki Room, while the Polynesian-themed Adventureland Veranda was replaced by Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen.
Shops that are no longer with us include Traders of Timbuktu, Tiki Tropic, The Magic Carpet, and Tropic Toppers. Today, though, Adventureland is home to The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, EPIC spring rolls, and of course, Dole Whip (though you wouldn’t find any in Adventureland on opening day!).
Sunshine Tree Terrace (formerly in the home that Aloha Isle inhabits today) has been serving up drinks and ice cream since opening day. The much-loved Orange Bird was a staple at the location since 1971! They’ve been serving up Citrus Swirls since the 70s!
Looking back on opening day in 1971, it’s clear that SO MUCH has changed, moved around, or been replaced in Disney World’s original park. Though we certainly miss a lot of these bygone attractions, it’s fun to reminisce, and we can only imagine what the next 50 years will bring!
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What bygone Magic Kingdom attraction do you miss the most? Let us know in the comments!