California's Disneyland versus Florida's Magic Kingdom
THE Guide :-)
One of the great debates on the internet, and indeed "in real life", for Disney enthusiasts is which U.S. "Magic Kingdom" is the best. Some say it must certainly be the original Disneyland that Walt himself had a hand in, while others insist that the larger space offered by the Florida sequel at Walt Disney World is the true winner. What do you think? The focus of these pages will be to do side by side comparisons of as many attractions and features of the two parks as I can, giving my personal opinions of which version stacks up on top. To be fair, let me mention that originally I visited both Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom as a child in 1976. I think I may have made one more visit to the California original a few years later, but all of my other many trips were strictly to Florida, even when all that was there was The Magic Kingdom. The thought of visiting Disneyland wasn't a strong one until 1994 when I read about the Indiana Jones attraction which certainly sounded like a good excuse to visit. I stumbled into a job in 1995 which soon had me traveling quite often to Irvine, CA (just 15 minutes from Disneyland) and Orlando (about 20 minutes from Walt Disney World). Several of my visits were back to back between one and the other allowing me "fresh memories" of the previous experience for comparison.
Together with my Epson PhotoPC digital camera I was able to start documenting both parks, and my numerous visits and annual passes allowed me to basically just goof off and wander around and pay attention to all kinds of things that, during a rushed vacation, there might simply not be enough time to notice or even appreciate. This may mean that some of my comparisons would be items the casual guest might have never noticed but, hopefully, once they are pointed out you might agree with my opinions about them.
Since the internet is a free medium, I welcome comments from those who both agree and disagree with me. I encourage others to put up similar comparisons and I will add links to your site so visitors here can get a "second opinion". Perhaps we'll even come up with a standardized "reviewer profile questionnaire" to fill out so readers can find comments from folks similar to themselves. It could be fun
THE PARKS THEMSELVES
Walt Disney himself wanted to design a theme park where both kids and adults could have fun together. His early ideas expanded beyond the small park he planned to be near the Disney studios, and eventually ended up in Anaheim, surrounded by orange fields. When Disneyland opened, the land surrounding it was quickly purchased and developed, giving way to strip malls, cheap hotels, and other less than desirable items. This also meant expanding the park down the line would be impossible, other than a few land purchases here and there.
Walt envisioned a sequel, and ended up searching for land on the East coast near Orlando. He was able to secretly have tons of land acquired so he'd have more than enough for any future plans. This property is over 42 square miles in size and was shown off on a Disney TV episode with the plans for building theme parks and other items there. Sadly, before the park was even built Walt passed passed away. To this extent, the Florida property contains none of the "spirit" of Disney other than the time he spent visiting the property (such as in Mickey Mouse 1, his personal plane of the time, which is on display at the Backlot Studio Tour at the Disney/MGM Studios theme park).
When Walt Disney World was being built, the extra size allowed for things to be done in a grander scale. Main Street buildings were larger and more impressive and even the castle towered high into the sky unlike the small (by comparison) original version in California. The extra space also allowed the park to be designed as the second story of a massive underground complex of tunnels (utilidoors) giving cast members ways to move from location to location without walking through guest areas meaning you would seldom - if at all - ever see a space man walking through Frontierland on the way to clock in. It also allowed trash and supplies to be moved in the same manner. It seems by design and layout Florida certainly had the edge. Even attractions that had to come up with clever ways to get outside the berm at Disneyland (where the railroad tracks ran) to their true show buildings (the warehouses holding the ride itself) had an easier time at The Magic Kingdom.
Accessing Disneyland meant driving right up to the parking lot and going int\o the front gates, while The Magic Kingdom was built more than a mile away from it's parking lot. Accessing it was via a ferryboat ride across the large manmade "Seven Seas Lagoon" or taking a high-tech ride on the monorail, which was just a Tomorrowland attraction back in California serving little transportation other than a nice scenic trip to and from the Disneyland Hotel. (NOTE: This was written years before Disney's California Adventure would be built on the former Disneyland parking lot.)
Most of the more popular attractions and lands were recreated for "Disneyland 2". Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland exist in both places, yet certain areas such as New Orleans Square and Liberty Square are unique to their own park. Some rides were given similar treatment, while others were expanded and some, interestingly enough, condensed (possibly a sign of money problems or the fact that Walt's "do it right no matter what it takes" overseeing days were no more).
What follows is a break down of attraction by attraction, as well as most of the themed lands, between the two parks. Select photos and other multimedia items will be used whenever possible to make the comparisons more interesting.
NEED: Map of each park. Utilitdoor maps.
Disneyland / WDW Railroad - both similar, though DL passes through the Grand Canyon diorama at the end and through Primeval World (dinosaur scenes) originally used in the '64 World's Fair. DL's Main Street station is much smaller. At DL, the train stops at Frontierland/New Orleans Square and Tomorrowland. TMK stops at Frontierland and Toontown Fair.
The Magic Kingdom has ___ trains in operation during peak times, named:
At Disneyland, there are ____ trains, named:
One of their trains has seats in bench style facing the passenger side of the vehicle, which is perfect for passing through the Grand Canyon diorama and Primeval World. One train even has a special enclosed caboose, which is used by VIPs visiting the park, and sometimes made available to tour groups as part of a "special" Disney experience.
Main Street USA, the first themed experience visiting Disney guests experience was inspired by towns such as _____, Missouri where Walt spent some of his early boyhood days. Or at least towns such as that. Since Walt reportedly loved miniatures (and indeed has his own mini railroad in his backyard), and Disneyland's Main Street features good use of forced perspective where the second story buildings are much smaller the farther up they go, giving the illusion of being larger than they really are. The Magic Kingdom uses the same tricks, but on a grander scale. If you've ever spent a good length of time roaming the streets of DL then soon visited TMK you might really feel like a kid again due to how much larger their buildings are. Even the railroad station is much larger, having two tunnels under it on each side (DL has one per side) and a large, grand covered back area (which was a fantastic viewing area for TMK's Main Street Electrical Parade before it was shipped to Tokyo Disneyland in XXXX).
Building styles are similar, but they are certainly not the same. Disneyland features gaslamps, while TMK has more of a covered lantern element style. At DL there is a nice recessed building with a front porch including rocking chairs, with no equivalent in Florida. Many shops are similar, such as both having magic stores (Note: TMK's magic store is now closed), cinemas (showing, as far as I could tell, the same multi-screen Mickey Mouse shorts), and a corner Emporium gift shop. Some similarities aren't quite as similar, such as Coca-Cola corner at the end of DL's Main Street, which serves hot dogs, and the Casey's Corner at TMK which also serves hot dogs but doesn't have the combo meals. Both feature piano players but those in Florida wear baseball catcher chest pieces to go with the baseball theme there. They also both feature fire stations though TMK has been turned into a Dalmatian gift shop while the old style fire truck still sits, at last visit, in DL's station. Several other shops are similar, but merchandise can often be quite different.
Both have a Penny Arcade but Disneyland's has evolved into a stuffed animal shop with a candy counter in the center (part of a 1997 expansion) while only a few of the old arcade machines remain. An interesting bit of trivia: Have you ever looked at the sides of there "modern" games (pinball and video)? They are covered in a wood grain siding rather than the original game graphics. Why? Possibly due to the only artwork "allowed" there being made by Disney. Even with this "policy" (which really made things look nicer and more consistent), the TRON game always had it's original graphics. TRON was a Disney movie. Note #2: At Disneyland, in the Indiana Jones "gift shop" there is an Indy Pinball machine which has been redone and sided in wood and bamboo to make it, at least somewhat, "fit in". (Note: This arcade policy has changed in past years and now Disney no longer tries to hide cabinet artwork.)
Need: picture of DL Indy game.
At the hub across from the castle is a statue entitled "Partners" featuring Walt Disney holding hands with Mickey Mouse. This metal image is the same at both parks, and surrounded by miniature statues of various other Disney characters such as Goofy. These figures are in different places at each park. Also surrounding the hub are the entrances to Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland (the castle, of course), and Tomorrowland. Many of the areas at TMK are much larger, having room for covered popcorn stands and the like, while DL is just much closer to each other land.
Need: picture of "Partners" and small statue, if available.
If you were to gaze into each land entrance, you'd notice a large arch to DL's Adventureland, versus the arched bridge under the flat sign into TMK's. Frontierland at DL features Indian teepees and other such dressings, while the World version is more plain. Tomorrowland reaches out with rock formations and a large high tech neon archway at TMK, and (until the rehab of 1998), DL still seemed like the entrance to a 1970s Logan's Run movie (i.e., not quite too "tomorrow"). The updated Tomorrowland at DL promises to be the best of all the Disney Kingdoms, so at some point this page will be updated to reflect that. (Note: I guess I better update this...)
Adventureland - Rethemed at DL and featuring Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. At TMK, the entranceway is less impressive than the massive gates at DL.
The first land to the left of Main Street at both parks is Adventureland. Disneyland had a renovation to their land a few years ago giving is a different feel. There are very few items in both parks that are real similar. The main attractions are there, including the Tiki bird show, Jungle Cruise, and Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (Note: which is now Tarzan's Treehouse at DL). Since the inclusion of the Indiana Jones attraction at DL, several of it's shops have become more Raiders of the Lost Ark themed with military vehicles (selling drinks and fruits) and the like scattered around. If I were to rank each version in feel, Disneyland would come out on top due to it really feeling more like some far off land. The addition of the Oasis (storytime show featuring Aladdin and Jasmine) and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (Indiana Jones Adventure), DL also comes out on top just out of having more attractions. TMK does have some nice shops, such as an orange juice location with fire torches above it, but DL has a waterfall around the restrooms and fire torches near it's entrance. It should be noted that TMK's Adventureland extends into what is called Caribbean Plaza, home of their Pirates of the Caribbean, while DL moves on into New Orleans Square, home of it's Pirates and Haunted Mansion. This should give you an idea that the physical layout of these areas is not very similar.
Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse - The differences here are subtle to the casual visitor (including myself). The trees are both made of concrete with plastic leaves and moss, but look realistic enough to fool most guests. At Disneyland, the actual tree is a bit smaller, but most of the scenes are very similar, right down to the organ music soundtrack. At The Magic Kingdom, there is a large covered mini-queue area up front. Disneyland often has parrots outside the entrance. Which is better? I'm afraid I cannot pick either one as being superior over the other. I simply haven't paid that much attention. (Note: Today I can say that TMK has the better version of the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse since it has the only U.S. version ;)
Jungle Cruise - TMK is longer with some different scenes such as a "camera crew" climbing the pole rather than a safari. Humor is often better at DL (better skippers?). TMK goes through a tunnel/cave and also has a crashed plane (the back end of the one seen at D/MGM's Great Movie Ride Casablanca scene). The DL queue area is two stories and was recently redone and is very nice. The queue audio includes period radio broadcasts. The DL boats are also all individually themed to reflect their skipper's personality. Also, the queue features an animated python and a bird which formerly was in the attraction before the expansion of the Indiana Jones ride. At TMK, the original Jungle Queen white boats are still in use and the queue is far less interesting. TMK has, nearby, a coin operated remote control boat station where you can drive miniature Jungle Cruise boats around.
(Note: Or maybe this version...)
The Jungle Cruise - This was one of the original Disneyland attractions, inspired by the humor found in Disney's wildlife films. Originally, both versions were very similar, but when Adventureland was updated in California, so was their Jungle Cruise. First, the queue area there is much more interesting, and two stories - you can find an animated "python" and bird up on the second story, as well as a netted in checkers game in progress below (which used to be chess but folks kept swiping the pieces). The original "Jungle Queen" inspired boats remain at The Magic Kingdom (all looking basically the same, except for their names), while Disneyland's have been themed to match their skippers, from pots and pans on one, to other strange items. The queue area in California also features vintage radio music and humorous announcements from time to time.
The actual ride is longer at The Magic Kingdom, featuring a few new scenes such as the tail section of a plane (the frontside of which is at the Disney/MGM Studios Great Movie Ride in the Casablanca scene). You also go through a tunnel with tigers and snakes and monkeys. Most of the other scenes are pretty well duplicated, with minor differences. It's a safari climbing the pole in California pursued by the Rhino, while in Florida it's a wildlife camera crew and the pole contains a lookout station complete with old style film camera. The actual ride is, therefore, more interesting (to me) in Florida, but the performance of the skippers is often better at Disneyland.
Regardless of which one is better, this is an attraction that really depends on the quality of the cast member driving the boat. Famous Disneyland cast member, Maynard, is reported to present one of the wildest cruises guests have ever seen and it's likely there are and have been similar super skippers at The Magic Kingdom. It's a fact that both have more than enough boring guides who just don't seem to have the enthusiasm to tell those old jokes and make them funny.
Jungle Cruise Skipper: "How many of you woke up today and said 'Jungle Cruise, gotta do it!'?"
Jungle Cruise Skipper: "Well I did... Every day..."
The Tiki Room - Though the difference is slight, and often unnoticed, this in an attraction with different names! One is known as the Enchanted Tiki Room while the other is the Tropical Serenade. The actual presentation is historically significant as it represented the first of the audioanimatronic shows put together by Disney. The actual presentation has changed little since it's original debut, and for the most part, is identical at both locations. The exterior is somewhat different, however.
Disneyland's features a pineapple stand and it's very own restrooms. In fact, this is the only attraction to have it's own facilities due to the building originally being designed as a restaurant. The preshow there features a narration as carved statues come to life and move or emit fire as their story is told. At the East Coast, there is a talking bird out front hawking (no pun intended) the show inside as well as two wisecracking birds in the pre show area. Disneyland once featured an outside bird but it attracted so much attention and caused traffic that it was removed.
All other items being the same, The Magic Kingdom probably has the better preshow and building. When Disneyland had a slow song removed shortening it's performance, the entire experience was made a bit more tolerable (for those with short attention spans such as the modern 90's theme park goers). The Florida version recently shut down for a complete update which will bring in a new show (that in some ways even makes fun of the old one) and the two birds from Aladdin and Lion King. I do suspect that this modernization will be considered "blasphemy" for devout Disney fans, but I look forward to it bringing back attention to an otherwise dated classic.
NEED: Picture of "Coming Soon" sign at WDW. (Note: Why bother. It's no longer "Coming soon". It's now "Been there for years"... :)
Castle - Better and larger at TMK. There, it's Cinderella Castle, featuring a restaurant on the second story and a "secret" apartment in the upper level. When you walk through this castle, you see a large mural of the Cinderella story. At DL, the castle belongs to Sleeping Beauty and is much smaller but it features a walk-thru attraction showing miniature scenes from that story.
NEED: Picture of Sleeping Beauty walk-thru entrance.
(Note: Take two...)
The Castles - An often made mistake by casual park visitors is that the castles are the same, just different sizes. Well, in Disneyland the castle belongs to Princess Aurora and is known as Sleeping Beauty Castle. There you can find a walk-thru attraction of the small castle and see miniature scenes from the movie, some with animated characters. The only other item contained there (other than storage) are two shops, one selling family crests and the other connected to the princess shop, which featuresoutfits for all the little princesses in the world.
At The Magic Kingdom, not only is the castle much, much larger and grander, but it's the Cinderella Castle. (Notice neither is possessive). On the second "floor" is found a restaurant which is VERY nice and often difficult to get into without reservations being made early in the day. The feature a morning all you can eat character breakfast for $15 which really is worth every penny if you like great food and seeing the characters (and, getting a great view out onto Fantasyland through the windows). Up top is a private apartment which would have been used by Walt Disney, though he never lived to see the opening of the park. Through the castle you can find a large mosaic mural of scenes from Cinderella.
Easily, the Florida version is a much more impressive castle. It has a large performance stage right up front. In comparison, the California original is a model. Though the charm of the walk-thru is nice, there just didn't anything quite as majestic about a tiny castle barely taller than some of the buildings on Main Street. While my heart belongs to Disneyland and that castle holds special significance as being one Walt walked under often, my nod goes to Cinderella and her amazing creation in Florida.
Trivia: How many bricks are there in Cinderella Castle? None. The massive structure is made of a fiberglass body, molded to look like bricks and strong enough to withstand massive weather and winds. It was reportedly constructed to last "forever".
Trivia: What is in the castle dungeon? Nothing. The only castle that has a dungeon is the one at Tokyo Disneyland, which features a walk thru attraction including an animatronic dragon.
Trivia: Which castle was the most difficult to design? Who knows, but it can be said that when it came time to build the one for Euro Disney, in a land which had REAL castles, the Imagineers had to dream up something even more fantastic. After all, what's the big deal of going to a theme park to see a recreated castle when you have real ones all over your country side? It is, therefore, designed to be more of a fantasy storybook structure.
One of the castles actually is part of the fireworks display with them being launched FROM the castle itself. Do you know which one? (Right, it's not in the United States.) (Note: Okay, DL now launches some fireworks from its castle... but it didn't when I wrote that.)
FANTASYLAND - The center piece of every Magic Kingdom is Fantasyland, a tribute to the classic animated features that made the Disney company what it is today. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the drawbridge was lowered at Sleeping Beauty Castle letting the children run into their new world. The ride concepts were simple enough - slow moving vehicles that traveled on track through blacklight lit scenes similar to traditional "dark rides" from carnivals of that era. However, no scary surprises were there (except for some scenes in Snow White, perhaps, which is the only Fantasyland attraction which still carries a scare warning for small children).
Over the years, Fantasyland expanded and evolved. After the 1964 World's Fair, It's a Small World was moved to Disneyland and put on the outer rim (at that time) of the park, expanding the land. The Magic Kingdom, opening much later, was able to start off with it's Small World and all the other attractions in a centralized area, giving it a more unified layout. Even with this additional space, Florida still managed to leave out a few attractions such as the popular Matterhorn Mountain roller coaster (which was, incidentally, the first steel tube coaster of it's time to use a pressurized air system to tell if there was track damage). Some attractions lost features and gained others, such as Small World losing it's fantastic kinetic front facade while gaining more ride scenes and an improved "flume" system for the ride itself. The Submarine Voyage became 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which was basically the same attraction with, in my opinion, a much nicer theme.
In the 1980s, Disneyland received a major facelift to their Fantasyland finally bringing it up closer to what Walt would have wanted if funding and time had permitted thirty years earlier. All of the plain castle fronts became very detailed individual building styles representing each attraction. A new "dark ride" was even created based on Pinocchio. Earlier expansion had already created attractions for California that to this date still haven't moved to Florida such as Alice in Wonderland. Due to space limitations, Alice was built on the second story on an existing attraction (WHICH ONE?).
Overall, the addition of better buildings and more attractions make the original the better Fantasyland. Through the years, Florida did offer such items as the Mickey Mouse Review (which was later moved to Tokyo Disneyland) and the current Legend of the Lion King (Note: now closed...) , omissions of things such as Casey Jr. Circus Train, the Storybook Canal Boats, Matterhorn, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, and Pinocchio make it easy to see that while "bigger" may seem better, "more" certainly is better. At least to me.
Dumbo - The original Dumbo attractions are long gone as both parks have had theirs updated. One such update (do you know which one?) wasn't intentional! A fire at the original Dumbo had them bring in the new version which was being built for Euro Disney (today known as Disneyland Paris). At some other point in time, the other park also had theirs replaced. While the modern versions are both very similar, one major difference is easy to notice. One sits rightly on the concrete, while the other has a water display under it, as if fountains are holding up the ride.
Peter Pan's Flight - This has always been a unique Fantasyland attraction due to the ride system. Instead of car vehicles running on a floor track, small "pirate ships" carried guests through the scenes suspended from a ceiling track. Some clever special effects were in use, such as a projection of Peter Pan on the children's bedroom, as he "flew" away, and then the nighttime scenes flying over a miniature London and Captain Hook pirate ship. To this date, Peter Pan's Flight continues to have one of the longest lines in either park.
When Disneyland has it's Fantasyland redone, so was this attraction. The loading zone now takes you over miniature houses and into a new children's room where you can see a "Hidden Disney" (of sorts) in the alphabet blocks on the floor. The flying scenes are greatly improved giving a fantastic feeling of depth to the stars and enhanced sound that makes you almost feel the ship firing a cannon ball past you. It's often said that the expensive E.T.(tm) attraction at Universal Studios is basically just a large, souped up Peter Pan's Flight.
With the two attractions being so different, I have to go with the newer version due to it having more up to date effects, but some would argue that the original still has it's charm. (Well, the "cloned" original in this case.) The loading area at The Magic Kingdom is a long moving walkway that features a small moving Tinkerbell along the wall (a nice touch). The Disneyland exterior is certainly more interesting to look at, however.
Mr. Toads Wild Ride - Here is an attraction that is rumored to be possibly going away in Florida to make room for a Winnie the Pooh ride. (Note: It did...) With all of the extra space they have, it seems they could easily find another location for it or possible build it on the second story as Disneyland had to. Regardless of the future outcome, for now both parks have this classic, quirky adventure.
Mr. Toad takes guests on a trip in an old Model T (?) car. Disneyland features vehicles that sit only two guests while The Magic Kingdom version sits four and has two steering wheels (for reasons unknown). There are also TWO tracks there, though I suspect they are the same, only mirrored (if anyone knows this for sure, please e-mail me). As a child, I seemed to recall the train sequence being much better at one park, but now I'm not quite sure. Overall, it seems that The Magic Kingdom has a much larger and more interesting ride with the exception of the final "hot" sequence which is done much more "realistically" at Disneyland.
It's a Small World - It's really hard to consider this an original Disneyland attraction, which most folks do. The concept was created for the 1964 World's Fair. The first idea Walt had would be something like "Children of the World", featuring the theme songs from all the countries you traveled through. This turned out to not be a musically compatible concept and a theme song was then created (by the Sherman Brothers, who continued to write popular Disney tunes even including some theme songs for Epcot).
Small World was moved to Disneyland after the fair ended. It remains today very close to how it originally appeared thirty years ago with the exception of a new sound track that was updated (and originally recorded for the opening of the Euro Disney version). Due to the original design which included "troughs" the boats ran in, the scenery was all separate as you roamed through a canal. When The Magic Kingdom version was designed from scratch, a more permanent approach was taken and the boats roam through a full water experience similar to how Pirates of the Caribbean appears. This allowed guiding tracks to keep the boat where it needed to be while appearing to be in a large ocean with "islands" of performing child dolls. The increase in size also allowed for additional scenes to be created. As an attraction goes, Florida takes the prize though having the best "Small World" may not be something to brag about.
The outside of the attractions is a different story. Disneyland features a kinetic clock of moving and rotating pieces making all kinds of noises. It even tells time (doing a doll march every hour with fanfare). The railroad passes through it. On contrast, the Florida version is merely a large indoor mural with white lights overlooked by seats inside the next door fast food restaurant. So, points must then go to California for having a better outside even if their queue is outdoors. (Note: Did you realize the queue at Disneyland has been reversed? What used to be the entrance is now the exit - directly into a Mattel toy store! Also, they used to load from two lanes but it seems all water rides that formerly did that no longer do. Pirates at TMK used to load from two sides as well.)
Question: Does the Florida version use the updated Euro sound track?
Originally, Snow White's Scary Adventure was missing one important element: Snow White! The ride was supposed to be from the perspective of Snow White as she traveled through the story. At some point it was updated to put her into the scenes due to guest confusion about this. Both rides internally are very similar though Disneyland ran out of room during the rebuilding of the attraction in the 80's and didn't include the final scene. Instead of seeing Snow White getting a kiss from a prince, you see a wall painted "And they lived happily ever after..." Because of this omission, I have to give The Magic Kingdom the winning ribbon.
Externally, Disneyland comes out on top. A large window above the entrance way has the evil Queen peering out of it from time to time. Near the entrance door, a golden book on a pedestal reads out a warning about those who touch the apple. Next to it, of course, sits a "magic" golden apple that guests can't help but touch after reading the book ... and to their surprise, it does something (have you ever touched it?). Also, their queue area resembles a short dungeon and you can peer down and see the spell book and watch the shadow of a raven as he caws out. Not bad, and not found in Florida.
Mad Hatter's Tea Party - The tea cups. What can one say about this classic carnival ride that turned into an inexpensive Fantasyland attraction just by themeing the round ride chairs as tea cups? I rode this for the last time at The Magic Kingdom in 1994 and vowed I'd never set foot on anything that spun like that again. I can safely say that both attractions should offer the same ride experience.
At Disneyland, the attraction is outdoors, while it's enclosed at The Magic Kingdom. 'nuff said, you decide which is more important. Frankly, avoiding rain and sun seems to make Florida's a better experience right there if you can tolerate the actual nauseating ride itself.
New Orleans Square at Disneyland, Liberty Square at The Magic Kingdom
The Haunted Mansion - When hinges creek in doorless chambers... This attraction certainly has alot of history behind it at Disneyland. Original 1950's park plans called for a haunted house off of Main Street and later plans envisions a creepy old mansion with a "museum of the weird". The external building, which was part of the New Orleans Square expansion to Disneyland, remained vacant of years as the Disney Imagineering staff worked on the 1964 world's fair and it's a good thing. After that event, they learned new ways to move people through attractions. Rather than the original planned walking tour, the OmniMover system was employed to move guests from room to room and even rotate them just like a camera would from scene to scene in a movie. (The "doom buggies" employed here were just redesigns of the ride system used in Adventures Through Inner Space in Tomorrowland.) The original plan for two identical attractions with people walking through them would have included a projected sequence of the headless horseman. Notes of the special effects testing for this still exist.
Need: haunted house text file about this. (Note: I passed them on to DoomBuggies.com so you can read them there.)
One problem did remain, however. Since a large scale attraction could not be fit inside the mansion itself, there needed to be a way to get guests outside of the park. This involved getting guests past the railroad berm. Since tunneling under was the only real option, a clever way was devised to get the guests downstairs. The preshow features a gallery of paintings and as the narration continues, the walls being to "stretch". This is achieved by having the rooms (yes, there are two of them) being giant Otis elevators that slowly lower the guests down below Disneyland ground level. When The Magic Kingdom had their mansion built, there was no such requirement to move guests but the effect was popular and was recreated with a room that has a ceiling that goes up. (This should hopefully answer a far too often asked trivia question.) It is interesting to note that Otis still makes the sliding doors used in Florida. You can see the Otis company name there as well, often making guests assume (incorrectly) that it must also be an elevator. (Otis is a popular Disney elevator builder, apparently. The "hydrolators" found at Epcot's The Living Seas may not take you below the ocean surface, but they do carry the Otis logo on their doors.)
Now, the most obvious difference between the two attractions is the mansion itself. Disneyland's sits in New Orleans Square, so it's themed to a nice, pristine southern manor. (Walt rejected the original dilapidated mansion idea since he never wanted anything to appear run down at Disneyland, though he gave them freedom to do as they choose with the insides.) In Florida, being close to Louisiana, New Orleans Square does not exist, being replaced with Liberty Square. Thus, the mansion took on a different appearance - that of an old stone house. At Disneyland, the queue is outdoors and spirals around the front and then side of the mansion, and now passes a pet cemetery and various tombs up on the berm in tribute to some of the ride designers. (The original cemetery was removed long ago to make room for more queue space.) At Florida, the queue starts past the metal gates and then is covered, though it wasn't always so. There is a new pet cemetery there up on the hillside near the entrance, and the tombstones appear (many more of them) next to the entrance doors.
Once inside the actual building, things change even further. At Disneyland, you enter immediately into a room where the first part of the narration begins leading you into the stretching room. At Florida, you go through a hallway into a large darkened room with a fireplace and changing painting. The stretch rooms are all very similar (though some of the paintings are slightly different!) then you go into a hallway leading to the loading area. At Disneyland, it's a hallway with changing paintings to one side, and windows showing a storm outside on the other. At the end of this hallway are two busts that seem to look at you as you pass them (a clever optical illusion, and quite simple), then you load into the vehicles against a wall of moving clouds (which never quite made sense to me). In Florida, you go direct to the loading area, which appears to be just another room inside the mansion.
The actual attraction is almost identical with a few exceptions. Disneyland features some restored dialog that has been missing from the attraction for ages and The Magic Kingdom includes a few extra scenes (the library full of "ghost stories" by the greatest "ghost writers that ever lived", a paino that plays by itself, and the hallway of paintings whose eyes follow you). Most everything else seems the same up until the attic sequence. Disneyland received a new treatment changing the attic by adding a shadow-paino player performing a dismal version of the Wedding March and adding a new, spookier bride. The spooks that used to jump and scream now jump and scream "I DO!". To keep up with these changes, The Magic Kingdom received an update adding a fantastic floating bride and top hats with tuxedo tops to all the spooks while retaining the original heartbeat sound effects.
The other changes are technical such as the use of laserdisc for projecting the singing and speaking busts, though it is important to note the seance room featuring Madame Leota is now rear projection (using fiber optics) at Disneyland which enables the entire table to move and wobble. (Note: For the Haunted Mansion Holiday in 2001 Leota was changed back to front projection.) The Magic Kingdom graveyard sequence only had a partial change for it's projected busts meaning the audio tracks for the music don't seem to sync up very well with the new projected lyrics (and this has been a problem for two years now that I have noticed).
With these items mentioned, I will say that while I do like the external appearance and loading area of the Magic Kingdom version better, the actual ride itself at Disneyland has significant enhancements to make it my favorite Mansion. Easily. Disneyland even had that great "ghost horse hearse" out front (which is white) that has now been replicated at the Magic Kingdom (where it is black), but there they still have many more steps to take to catch up.
NEED: Pictures of each hearse.
New Orleans Square at Disneyland, Adventureland/Caribbean Plaza at The Magic Kingdom
The Pirates of the Caribbean - For an attraction built in 1967, it's amazing to realize it is one of the most popular rides in either park. The location at Disneyland is New Orleans Square, so the storyline starts out in a boat somewhere in the swamps of Louisiana. Fireflies (one of the all time great Disney creations) flicker as you pass alligators and house boats then a man rocking on his chair in front of his shack. This man, by the way, does exist in Florida - he can be found, banjo soundtrack and all, rocking along the banks of the Rivers of America. Soon you fall into a sinkhole and discover the place where pirates once roamed! The sinkhole is a drop (one of two found in California in this attraction) designed to lower you under the railroad tracks to get out to the show building which is outside the main park area. Florida has a small drop as well, but it's there merely for effect. You get to it after going through some of the caverns.
Disneyland takes you through many caverns and past skeletons, treasure rooms, and the like up until you are warned about seeing the cursed treasure. You pass through mist leading you into a "flashback" of what happened to make the pirates end up all dead there. This storyline is completely missing in Florida where you go through some caverns, pass a skeleton or two, then end up right at the pirate ship battle. Regardless, from this point on most of the major scenes are very close. The effects of the cannons firing is different, and some enhanced effects are missing (such as the shadows of pirates fighting), but the idea remains the same.
Certain key scenes have changed over the years in different ways. The pirate chasing women scene was the center of quite a bit of "political correct" press at Disneyland when it was discovered modifications were being made to have the pirates after food instead. The pirate formerly trying to find the (nude?) lady in the barrel behind him (offering to share if we help) is now over eating and musing about whether or not another bite will sink the ship. A dog barks at the cat peering out of the barrel. Some new animatronics were also added and the women chase pirates who are holding chickens or other food-like items now. Drunken pirates even try to catch liquor pouring out of barrels which have been shot (in a very neat effect) while another tries to prevent surrounding animals from taking their food as they look left and right. None of this can be found in Florida but that does NOT mean Florida survived the changes! Years ago, the men chasing women became women chasing men (ruining what was a pretty funny punchline in the original) and the pirate no longer hunts a woman but wants to know where the "X" on a map he is holding can be found (while the woman peers out of the barrel not with a candle but with a small treasure chest). Yet not a single protest was heard for these changes! I suspect the whole "controversy" at Disneyland might have just been a clever way to gain alot of free publicity to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of the attraction.
The only other major differences are found in the final scenes. At Disneyland, you enter a chamber with fighting pirates shooting randomly while they try to pull heavy bags of treasure up a steep hill. The hill is supposed to represent a waterfall that you travel back "up" returning you at "ground level", unlike the Florida version which has you disembark then travel up a moving walkway. The final Magic Kingdom scene is a treasure room with soldiers tied up. Drunken pirates shoot and babble aimlessly.
Since the Disneyland version is much longer, contains many more scenes, and has so many ride enhancements, it gains my vote as the best version without any competition. The only thing Florida has is it's wonderful queue area which takes you through a dungeon complete with skeletons stuck in a game of chess, cannons, and other items to look at while you try to get to the actual ride. There's even a cave where you hear pirates digging and a far away ship in the distance as clouds and smoke drift past it. To it's credit, Disneyland does have the fireflies and the excellent Blue Bayou restaurant which lets you dine under moonlight and watch the boats pass through the swamps. Walt Disney World comes close to this at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot, but there are no fireflies there.
A few other minor differences: There is a talking parrot (compete with pegleg, eyepatch, and shaved chest with tattoo) in Florida while Disneyland has an island you pass in the queue (and so do the boats right before unloading) with a treasure chest, fiber optic map (with Pirates of the Caribbean on it), pirate flag, and talking parrot. The skull and crossbones that warns you about the upcoming drop is just glowing bone in Florida, and is more detailed (wearing a hat) on a red background in California.
NEED: Pictures of ending scenes from DL.
Critter Country at Disneyland, Frontierland at The Magic Kingdom
Splash Mountain - Overall, much nicer queue and ride setup at TMK. TMK sits people side by side, DL sits front to back. The splash area at TMK is large and ends up "splashing" guests on a bridge that takes them over to that section, while at DL the logs end up going out near the River's of America where the Keel Boats pass. The order of the ride scenes is a bit different at both locations as well. At TMK, you see a preview of the drop photo in a picture frame (monitor) while in line, and at DL your boat goes under an animated Owl who shows it to you right before you get off. The TMK queue looks down upon one of the final Brer Rabbit scenes, while DL has a shadow of Brer Frog (is this right or am I mixed up?) you can see and listen to. Splash is in Frontierland at TMK, and in Critter Country at DL.
Critter Country at Disneyland, Frontierland at The Magic Kingdom
Country Bear Jamboree - During an expansion in ____, Disneyland added an area known as Bear Country to house the Country Bear Playhouse. There, animatronic bears perform a musical comedy country show. At Disneyland, there are actually two theaters and the massive waiting area makes you wonder where they found all the room for it! At Florida, the Country Bear Jamboree sits in Frontierland and has only one theater but features three animated mounted animal heads singing along as you exit, which has always been a favorite touch of mine. (Note: They were removed a few years ago when Pecos Bill arrived next door...)
A few years later, Bear Country became Critter Country when Splash Mountain moved in and the "caves" outside the section entrance moved away as well (losing that famous snoring bear). The shows have also changed over the years with a Christmas show and, more recently, the Vacation Hoe-down at California. Currently, Disneyland still runs the vacation show, while the original version plays at The Magic Kingdom. (Note: Disneyland's version has gone into hibernation to make room for a new Winnie the Pooh attraction.)
Since Disneyland has a more interesting waiting area and two theaters, I give it my vote for best version. However, since the shows are both different, you may prefer one over the other. I guess I've just heard the original version on soundtrack albums so much that it's nice seeing something different.
Splash Mountain and Country Bear Jamboree are both in Frontierland at TMK.
Frontierland - Celebrating the pioneering spirit of a long gone wild America, Frontierland is a look back into the old west. At the time of the Disneyland opening, westerns were still popular on TV and at the movies and Disney's own Davy Crockett series had captured the interests of viewers everywhere. Even though this era is gone, no U.S. Disney park would really be the same without being able to walk into the general store, find a shooting gallery, or just take a ride on a riverboat.
Both Frontierlands are very similar in concept though actual buildings vary greatly. The Stage Door Cafe at Disneyland has no direct equivalent on the other coast, but the Golden Horseshoe Review and it's Florida counterpart the Diamond Horseshoe Review are spiritual cousins. While Disneyland HAD the longest running stage show in America at theirs, it ended a few years ago and now both of them offer light snacks and various comedy performances. The Magic Kingdom has been seen to have regular country bands playing which seems awfully tacky in the middle of such a fantasy theme park.
At Disneyland you can find Big Thunder Trail which takes you on a quiet backwoods walk over to the edge of Fantasyland and around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. You can see parts of the old Mine Train attraction that went away decades ago and even see "fish" jumping in the nearby waterway. There are no such leftover places in Florida and Big Thunder Ranch BBQ doesn't exist there either. (Technically it does not at Disneyland anymore since it was turned into the Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools show, making that section part of Fantasyland, even if it still looked like a ranch surrounded by the old west.) (Note: Then it came back. Then it closed. Now it's gone.)
The entrances of each resemble a fort complete with flags and lookout posts. Disneyland has some nice "extras" such as Indian teepees out front (part of an ongoing enhancement effort by their show group). The Magic Kingdom area seems more spread out along the banks of the Rivers of America and even has a long alternate wooden walkway closer to the water which is perfect for bypassing the standing room only crowds during parades.
While I am fonder of the original California version, I cannot say if it is for any definitive reason other than I really like Big Thunder Trail. That little section of Disneyland is pure magic - an escape from the crowds of an otherwise tourist filled theme park. Also, there are two sailing ships on their waters - the Mark Twain riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia. The riverboat has a recorded narration similar to The Magic Kingdom's while the Columbia is almost like a grand scale Jungle Cruise as "Hawkeye" and the Captain tell bad jokes. There is also a character greeting area where you can meet country Chip and Dale often in California. One of the problems, if it is one, that Disneyland has is Adventureland, New Orleans Square, and Frontierland almost come together at one point, while The Magic Kingdom is laid out a bit better as far as keeping things separated.
NEED: Picture of teepees and stuff at DL.
Big Thunder Mountain - Not sure which coaster is actually better, but the queue area at TMK seems better and also has the "town" you go through during the ride. Some of the inside scenes at DL are better (i.e., avalanche now that it's improved). Of note, you pass the dinosaur skeleton head first at one (TMK?) and tail first at the other (DL)? There is a spewing geyser outside near TMK's. Big Thunder BBQ. Backside trail.
Liberty Belle (TMK) / Mark Twain (DL) riverboats - TMK has a three story steam boat. DL is only two. (Or is it?)
Keel Boats - Both are about the same but I believe DL still only has male skippers while TMK has females as well. Something about a girl talking about her rough expeditions with Tom Sawyer and river pirates just doesn't fit to me. (Note: Both gone now. Disneyland auctioned off one of their boats while TMK turned their area into Haunted Mansion FastPass.)
Rivers of America - The burning cabin is more realisting at DL with fire sounds and a nearby tree ablaze. Other scenes found at TMK (like river pirates) are not at DL. DL has a fully animated story telling Indian which missing at TMK.
Tom Sawyer Island - Larger (two islands) at TMK, but more climbing things at DL. TMK has Aunt Polly's picnic restaurant.
Tomorrowland - In '94 TMK got a facelift,so now it's all neon and Buck Rogers looking. DL is currently being renovated to appear that way as well. TMK has the Carousel of Progress which used to be at DL, while DL's old COP building is soon to be Innoventions. TMK has a magnet driven People Mover (Tomorrowland Transit Authority) while the original tire driven DL People Mover is being changed into Rocket Rods/Sleds/Whatever, a thrill ride. DL features Star Tours which is at D/MGM at WDW. DL has two Autopias, versus only one at TMK. Cable cars depart from TMK but are gone from DL. (Note: Rocket Rods came and went, and the autopia tracks were combined to become one long one.)
NEED: Picture of DL rockets and TMK rockets.
Space Mountain - Disneyland has an on board sound system. The sound give's DL an advantage. TMK has the FedEx stuff at the end (the futuristic teleportation of a package stuff). TMK has two tracks (supposedly the same, just in different directions). TMK's vehicles sit three people front to back, while DL sits four people, two side by side. The loading area at DL appears as the inside of a space station with a large ship hanging from the ceiling. At TMK, you pass this ship next to a chain lift while on the ride.
NEED: GIF of track layout from both.
Mickey's Toontown versus Mickey's Toontown Fair
Toontown - Toontown at DL seems to win hands down with it's "cartoon theming". Both contain Donald's boat and you can also find Mickey and Minnie's houses. TMK's Goofy's Barnstormer kids-coaster is similar to Gadget's Go Coaster at DL. The large tents at TMK give more of a circus feel. For character encounters, the meet and great tent is fantastic. DL has Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, an excellent dark ride with nothing like it at TMK (think: Mad Hatter's Tea Party meets Mr. Toad's Wild Ride).
Trams and Monorails - The trams are larger at WDW, and the monorail is sitting room only at DL (smaller monorails). At TMK, the monorail gets you from the parking lot to TMK, or from the parking lot to Epcot. At DL, it's just a ride in Tomorrowland that circle around and also runs across the road to the Disneyland Hotel.
Some things found only at Disneyland:
Some things found only at The Magic Kingdom: