Today is the final installment of my vintage Disneyland postcard series, and with it, I saved the most iconic land for last, Fantasyland. Disneyland perhaps wouldn’t be what it is if it were not for the beloved animated films created at the Walt Disney Studio, and here, in Fantasyland Guests get to step into those stories and experience them.
The gateway to Fantasyland is also the central focus point of Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle, where Guests can walk over a drawbridge and through the castle into a land of color and wonder.
Even though the above four images are all relatively the same, they show a nice progression of how the area around the castle changed subtly over the years. Originally dirt pathways with minimal landscaping flanked the castle, but eventually a stone pathway was laid down and the vegetation grew to fill in the dirt around.
In 1961 Walt commissioned statues of the characters from his first animated feature length movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, for an area near the castle known as Snow White’s Grotto, complete with wishing well. However, upon receiving the statues he discovered Snow White was the same height as the dwarves! Imagineer John Hench was tasked with coming up with a creative way to achieve a setting in which Snow White did not appear to be the same height, so he came up with this cascading waterfall and employed forced-perspective, a tactic used throughout Disneyland, placing Snow White atop a hill, with the dwarves below.
Once through the castle Guests were greeted by a massive carousel, spinning tea cups, flying elephants, a giant pirate ship, and brightly painted facades that were reminiscent of Renaissance tents.
From 1956 to 1994 Guests could board the Skyway and travel to either Tomorrowland or Fantasyland in small, gondola like buckets, gliding high above Disneyland, giving them a bird’s eye view of the park, and even passing through the Matterhorn. In Fantasyland the Skyway Station was made-up to look like a little Swiss chalet, and was adorable to say the least. While the Skyway closed in 1994, the small Swiss chalet stood empty, rotting, until 2016. I became slightly obsessed with the old Skyway station, photographing it heavily in 2012, and was even lucky enough to have a Cast Member go up to the building and photograph it closer, which you can see in this post here. I photographed it again in 2016, just prior to its demolition.
And what is this, you ask? Why it is the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship and Restaurant that “floated” by the cascading falls of Skull Rock, where Guests could enjoy a variety of tuna dishes.
If Fantasyland looks a lot different, that is because it underwent a massive renovation in 1983, and was dubbed “New Fantasyland.” The brightly colored facades that had seen the park through its first three decades were never what Walt wanted, but time and money was not on his side in 1955, and it wasn’t until New Fantasyland that Walt’s dream of a fairytale village became a reality. As part of New Fantasyland King Arthur’s Carousel was moved just ever so slightly backwards, away from the Castle, the Mad Tea Party was moved entirely, to its current location by the Matterhorn, the Chicken of the Sea Restaurant and Skull Rock were completely removed, and Dumbo moved a little bit over to take its place, and in doing so opened up what is known as Big Thunder Trail, a shortcut into Frontierland.
Autopia!? In Fantasyland? Yes, there were two Autopia attractions in Fantasyland, of course in addition to the one in Tomorrowland! There was Midget Autopia, seen here, allowed for the smaller children to drive around through more fairytale settings, and lasted from 1957 to 1966. And Fantasyland Autopia, which had a longer run from 1959 to 1999. In 1991 it was briefly transformed into Rescue Rangers Raceway when parts of the park were re-themed to promote the Disney Afternoon cartoons.
And, yes, Fantasyland had boats as well! Seen here is the Motor Boat Cruise, which lasted from 1957 to 1993. Like the Fantasyland Autopia, it received a Disney Afternoon tie-in in 1991, and became The Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen, and Guests floated by painted wooden cut outs of the buildings and characters from Disney’s TV show Gummi Bears. Today all that remains of the Motor Boat Cruise is the dock, across from the Matterhorn, and is a seating area, and sometimes character meet-and-greet location.
In 1966, after its successful run at the New York World’s Fair, “it’s a small world” was given a permanent home at Disneyland.
And what better way to end this post and the series than with a look at Sleeping Beauty Castle at night…
I hope you enjoyed this series showcasing my vintage Disneyland postcards! I do know my collection is far from complete, and perhaps I will add to these posts over time.
If you enjoyed this series, let me know in the comments below! I have a small collection of vintage Knott’s Berry Farm postcards that I will likely share next. Additionally, I have vintage photographs of Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm that I also plan on sharing.