The Not So Magic Kingdom

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and these parks figure if you’re going to imitate anyone, why not imitate the greatest kiddie park that ever existed! Although they aimed high and wished upon a star, they missed the mark in these unlicensed Disneyland inspired displays.

We know that Disney didn’t invent the fairy tale and some stories had been interpreted for over a hundred years before Walt came on the scene. In fact, many of the parks I visit predate Disneyland’s opening in 1955.   However, there is no denying that some of these works were a little more than inspired by the Disney animated features and attractions that came out of Disneyland in the 1950s. Here are a few of my favorites.

The first is an incredible series of paintings on wood decorating a bumper car ride at the Jersey Shore. Goofy manages the line, while Mickey, Donald, and the Big Bad Wolf have some fun in their cars. Something is not quite right about them, maybe they’ve been bumped one too many times? Giggle if you want, but I bet most of you would hang these in your house if you came across one somewhere!

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Take a train ride into the woods at the Magic Forest and keep your eyes out for these guys. Here you’ll find a decapitated Donald. YIKES, and two wooden signs on trees likely repurposed from another attraction. Something about Donald’s dead eyes on the sign are not right. I’m not even going to discuss the perspective used on Mickey’s ears, or that sassy finger wagging pose he’s in.

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Although Snow White has been represented in various renderings since the 1800s when Storybook Land built this Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs house, the costuming of our heroine and the sculpts of her dwarf pals is a little more than reminiscent of the Disney princess seen in the 1937 film. Decorating the set with plastic cups from Disneyland and a 1970s Snow White trash can that probably once belonged to an employee’s kid doesn’t help matters much either. I commend them for the details on the costumes and the set, as someone who is clearly very talented put a lot of work into these.

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We’ve done a entire feature on  Kiddie Park versions of Alice, but I couldn’t leave this out, as our White Rabbit, Tweedldee & Tweedledum, The Chesire Cat, Red Queen, and Alice herself all appear to be lifted from the Disney flick. I’ve seen a lot of Alice movies in my day but this one is unmistakably inspired by Disney.

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And finally, standing 10 feet tall and made of real wood is Gepetto’s toy son who just wanted to be a real boy. Pinocchio had existed for 57 years before the Walt Disney company put him in film in 1940, but this park definitely took their inspiration from familiar source material when they designed him from the tip of his hat to his little red lederhosen!

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Although these are sometimes funny, I am featuring them out of love. Park owners know that they need to stay current if they will continue to keep kids interested and if that means the occasional unlicensed character shows up from time to time to keep it relevant, so be it. Look at these as works of art and you’ll see a real love of the Disney characters here. After all, when I say “Snow White”  do you think of a black and white lithograph in a Grimm’s Fairy tale book, or do you think of a black-haired princess in a blue, yellow and red dress? If I ask you to picture “Pinocchio” do you see a wooden boy, or do you see a smiling cartoon character in red  lederhosen and a yellow alpine hat? The truth is, these characters are firmly ingrained in our collective subconscious. It is no wonder then, that when a park needs to decorate their bumper cars, or add a little bit of character to their train ride through the woods, that these familiar faces pop up…licensed, or not.

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