Since its opening on October 1st, 1971, the Magic Kingdom has been host to countless millions of happy memories for multiple generations. Although the park hasn’t been around nearly as long as Disneyland on the West coast, the Magic Kingdom has a rich history of its own ever since Walt Disney conceived of what came to be known as, “The Florida Project” back in the mid-1960s.
The Magic Kingdom holds the distinction of being the most visited theme park in the world, with just over 20.4 million visitors passing through its gates in 2015 and 2016. Disneyland Park in France received only 8.4 million in 2016 and Disneyland welcomed nearly 18 million visitors.
The crowds were considerably smaller in the early years of the park and the lines were obviously a lot shorter. Back in the 1970s, there weren’t any cast member chaperones needed to accompany characters for photos and meet-and-greets around the park. You didn’t need a FastPass to have any hope of riding a popular attraction during your visit. For the first few decades of the park, you could ride the Skyway, paddle in a real canoe and take a wild ride with Mr. Toad.
While millions of visitors from around the world create special memories at Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom in particular today, there is something undeniably special about taking a journey back in time and getting a feel for what the Magic Kingdom was like before the crowds and before Disney became the multi-billion dollar mega corporation it is today. While there’s a lot to be excited about at WDW with the new theme parks, hotels and a host of other attractions, you’re never too old or too young to take a brief journey back and enjoy the way things were when the park was new.
1 Park visitors walk through a near-empty Fantasyland in 1977
Fantasyland is one of the original themed lands that can be found in all Disney parks. Its persona represents a Renaissance motif and is most known for carrying Disney’s most classic character attractions. This is where Cinderella’s Castle lays dominant among other staples such as Peter Pan’s Flight, Mickey's PhilharMagic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, It’s a Small World, and six of the other main attractions.
However, the Fantasyland guests see today is very different from this 1978 version. In 2010, construction started on a concept, dubbed “New Fantasyland” that would expand the popular area. In the four years it took to revamp this area, rides such as Ariel’s Grotto were conceived and important stations such as the Princess Fairytale Hall opened. To this day, Disney World Fantasyland attractions continue to come and go to make room for modern Disney tales. Some of today’s more popular add-ons include Gaston’s Tavern and the now notorious Be Our Guest restaurant.
The attraction seen in this photo is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which closed in 1998 after almost 20 years as one of Disney World’s original attractions. There are a few rides that these guests were able to experience in this 1978 photo that is no longer in Fantasyland today:
• Mickey Mouse Revue (1971–80)
• 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage (1971–94)
• Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (1971–98)
• Skyway to Tomorrowland (1971–99)
• Skull Rock (1971–2011)
• Snow White's Adventures (1971–1994)