Tiny Kingdoms

When Walt built Disneyland, his imagineers used an optical illusion called “forced perspective” in order to make Sleeping Beauty’s castle appear much larger than it actually is. All this means is that the foundation is larger than the turrets, and as you walk down Main Street USA toward the castle, the buildings get smaller which in turn makes the castle appear larger from a distance. From the entrance gate it looks like a huge castle, but once you are standing next to it, it’s really not much taller than a large house. Disney liked  this optical illusion so much that it was used in every park that followed, including its other castles! Next time you are in Walt Disney World, note the windows on Cinderella Castle-they are actually incrementally smaller the higher up in the tower you go. This tricks our eyes and makes us think the building is much larger than it is. You can also see it put to good use in the recently erected Beast Castle in Fantasyland.

Some parks force this perspective a bit more than others, and the result is, at times, comical. I think it is fair to say that a good number of these quirky castles are more the result of limited space and resources than an attempt to create a dazzling special effect.

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Standing in a fountain (but we like to think of it as a moat) at the Great Escape in New England is the heart of what was formerly Storytown USA . This tiny castle is not much larger than a very elaborate doll house, but its charming pastel palette is very well maintained. This structure is a 2010 rebuild of the of the original Storytown castle, and we think its a very important gesture that the park re installed it after purchasing the land in 2006.

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Atop a stone hill sits a comparatively drab castle at the Magic Forest. This one does have an impressive amount of turrets and flags, so as tiny castles go, it’s not too shabby! There is something oddly majestic about this pint-sized kingdom!

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Storybook Land’s small castle is the epitome of 1960s kiddie park roadside kitsch. The exaggerated angles, the primary colors, and the overall strangeness of this castle makes it a favorite of mine. Goosey Gander’s Castle is put to good use as a home and pond for several geese to swim…and apparently poop.

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While we’re on the subject of 60s style, check out Sir Goony’s Castle at Sir Goony Golf in Lake George. A fair maiden looks out hoping you’ll make the shot as the drawbridge opens and closes on the green!

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She’s thinking “You’re totally not going to make this shot, and I’m going to die in this tower.”

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Wrapping up our architectural study of zany mid-century angles, we’ll make a visit to Cinderella’s Castle at Storyland. I’ve saved the best for last. Not only can you look upon this castle in all its 1960s glory, but you can also see a bit of forced perspective in action! You can see this castle from just about every point in the park, and it looks magnificent perched atop a winding hillside. You might be asking yourself, “How do I get to a castle high on a hillside?” Why, in your PUMPKIN COACH, silly! PumpkinCoach

That’s right-you can ride an electromechanical horse drawn carriage up the hill to the castle in a faraway land. Once you arrive, you might even be lucky enough to find a princess, and her famous glass slipper inside!

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Even if you don’t have a thing to wear to the ball,  We highly recommend hopping into this pumpkin coach, as it’s going to offer you a breathtaking view of the rest of the park! Some might even say it is a view fit for a king, a tiny king, but a king nonetheless!

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Hump-Day Dumpty Week 10

Alright, you got me, I missed a few Humpdays, so this week I’m making up for it by posting a true gem from the Magic Forest. This Humpty is a real egg-head with his round glasses and know-it-all expression. He looks a bit worried sitting up there on that wall because I think he has figured out the probability of his fall and the statistical likelihood of his breaking into a million pieces; and statistically speaking, things don’t look good for our egg-headed little friend.  In dire need of a new coat of paint, and missing at least one finger, you can almost hear his distress cry- “Oh dear!”

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Hope your Humpday is better than his!

 

Open Sesame-Ali Baba’s Cave at the Enchanted Forest

Fairy tales are part of our shared cultural history. They seem to occupy a part of our subconscious, so it is no surprise that many parks feature derivative sculptures we’ve seen a dozen times before.  Just about every park I’ve been to has their version of a Humpty Dumpty,  Mother Goose, The Old Woman who lived in a shoe, or Jack and the Beanstalk. Most have Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, an Itsy Bitsy Spider, and a Cinderella. Every now and again you’ll see 3 blind mice and Hickory-Dickory dock. That’s why when you stumble onto something you haven’t seen before, it is so exciting! Some might even say it is like wandering into a den of thieves, and finding gold. This is how I felt when I happened upon the Enchanted Forest’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Cave.

“Ali Baba found the Cave” 

The cave is at the bottom of a steep incline, set back away from the crowds. I had to wonder if this was intentional, meant to be found only by true treasure hunters. The truth is, It  began to pour just as I saw it in the distance; and it made an excellent shelter to wait out the storm.

“and he beamed with pleasure.
He did battle with forty thieves
to keep the treasure.”

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The attraction itself is small-Just 3 figures are inside, along with a gold chest, and some low lighting by faux candlelight. It was built in 1956, the same year as the park, indicating that it was likely original to the property.

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Apparently, The thieves have returned since then as it appears Ali Baba used to have 4 gold Chests surrounding him based on this 1957 post card photo. It also appears that the 2 other figures may have been added to the scene later, or perhaps moved from another part of the cave.

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Sadly, times have changed and the Old Forge park now focuses more on its water slides and pools than its history as a Fairy Tale Park. I’m glad they have left these statues for those of us that cherish this part of the park’s story, and I hope you’ll continue to express your interest to the Enchanted Forest so we can keep these statues alive for years to come.

Maybe it was being trapped inside during a rainstorm, or maybe it was the rarity of this scene, but I was so happy to have found the cave and known the password. I’m only aware of two other Ali Baba attractions, and both are now long gone. One was at Fairyland Forest in Conneaut Lake, PA, and the other stood at the Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City Maryland. It does not appear to be among the surviving rescued statues at Elioak Farm.

Here’s another version of the now defunct Fairyland Forest version.

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Do you know of any other Ali Baba dioramas out there? Let us know in the comments!

 

Snow White’s Scary Adventures

Although I’m a huge fan of Disney Parks, I haven’t touched too much on them here. I think there’s plenty of coverage of Disney on countless other blogs so we usually prefer to focus on smaller lesser known parks. However, last week I got to visit the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World on opening day of the brand new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I was so thrilled to be among the first riders that we booked our trip just 3 weeks in advance upon the announcement so that we could be there on this ride’s opening date! As much as I love the new coaster, I want to take a moment to honor Snow White’s history in the park and  pay tribute to the little ride that was removed to make way; a creepy dark ride I’d grown to love called Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

I was present at the 2011 D23 Expo in 2011 at the Parks and Resorts presentation where New Fantasyland was announced and was able to see concept art  and ride vehicles for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I was also fortunate enough to visit the park 6 times during construction of New Fantasyland and see the various phases of construction culminating with the May 28th opening of the coaster.

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Here is some mine train concept art and a vehicle prototype from the 2011 D23 Expo in Anaheim.

In Disney World, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was an original Magic Kingdom attraction that opened along with the park on Oct 1, 1971 and it took riders through the dark for the  next 41 years. The ride went through a few revisions, most notably in 1994, where it became “less scary” and  finally closed  for good on May 31, 2012. There are still three operating versions of the ride at Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Disneyland in California, but each slightly differs from the now defunct ride in Orlando.

As Disney dark rides go, it was scarier than most, though I was never able to ride the pre 94 “scarier” version.  Still, even post revision, the ride included dark forests with terrifying enchanted trees, spooky skeletons, strobe lights, menacing vultures, and riders had at least 7 terrifying encounters with the witch!

If you never got to ride, you can see a ridethrough tribute below.

I wish I’d taken more photos, since I found many of mine to be on the blurry side, but I’m going to share them anyway as this ride took you through strobe lights, and quick turns so at times, what you saw actually was disorienting and blurry!

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The ride stood in Fantasyland, on the left side of the rear entrance of Cinderella Castle (next to Sir Mickey’s).  Above, you can see some of the ride Signage in May 2012 before construction began. The image of the witch handing snow white an apple was painted on a mirror, so you saw the reflection of Fantasyland all around them.
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As you boarded your mine car named after a dwarf (or should we say mine cart?) you got to enjoy the amazing Snow White mural featured on the ride’s facade. I hope that Disney preserved the painting somewhere! The exit featured an ominous image of the wicked queen and a the woodsman painted in the same style.

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Once inside, you took a quick trip through the 1931 movie, where you encountered haunted trees, vultures, and witches! Again, apologies for the blurry shots, but here are some of the scarier elements of the ride interior! As your cart tripped the gag in the forest, the trees would quickly turn toward you scaring the smaller riders in your cart. That forest was downright frightening (and I loved it!)

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Here are a few more shots of the interior and the dwarfs which have (thankfully) been re-purposed in the final scene of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride (The dwarf band can now be seen playing its instruments as the coaster breaks and guests encounter the cottage scene of Snow white dancing with Dopey and Sneezy prior to exiting!) Our vulture friends also made the move and now perch atop the first lift hill on the exterior of the ride.

So that there is no confusion around the location, the Mine train did not replace the Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at least in terms of location. Disney just did not want to devote 2 rides to the same princess in Fantasyland. Here’s a short history of the changes that took place:

In April 2010 Pooh’s Playful spot moved its large tree across the way to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride along with an updated interactive queue. Pooh’s playful place was closed and we now know that this was to make way for the Seven Dwarfs Mine train. In May 2012, Snow White’s Scary Adventures closed permanantly and the building reopened in September 2013 as Princess Fairytale Hall, a princess meet & greet area. (Currently you can wait in 5-6 hour lines to meet the Anna and Elsa from Frozen, if you are so inclined..I was not!)From 2011-2014 construction on the Mine train took place. Disney was kind enough to open little peep holes for curious guests like myself! And those of us willing to bend the rules and climb on benches could sneak a few photos over the construction walls. Here are some shots of the construction.

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Since I was too excited to ride, I barely took any photos, but for an in depth look at the mine ride, visit Inside the Magic’s awesome article or watch this early ridethrough video! I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but if you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see that there is a little nod to the scary side of Snow White.

Disney Parks will always change and update themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled about the new Mine ride. It will surely become a favorite here in Kiddieland, but we’ll always miss the simple charm of a good scare found in Snow White’s Scary Adventures. We hope Californians keep their nostalgia for this ride, and it remains open there, along with other lost Florida attractions. Until then, stay away from poison apples and don’t go running into any dark forests alone.

 

Update: I have just come across this fantastic 1991 light attachment video of Snow White’s Adventures showing the ride pre refurbishment. Definitely employs some classic early dark ride tricks (Did you see that mine car!?) Enjoy!

Please step out to your left. Step out to your left please.

 

Lost Kiddieland Treasures-Monster Mini Golf-Ocean City NJ

The mission of this blog has always been to help preserve the amazing attractions that exist in the world and to educate people about them in hopes that they can remain open. Unfortunately, this one left us too soon.  Not everything in Kiddieland is candy-coated mother goose statues, so today we’ll be looking at a spooky mini golf course, once a treasure for monster kids in Ocean City NJ. This boardwalk  is home to at least a half dozen mini golf courses today, but none will stick in my memory as much as the now defunct “Graveyard Golf”.

Graveyard Golf was one of those ramshackle attractions that you couldn’t believe was real. In fact, all of my internet searches on it come up empty…but I was there, and I know it was not just in my nightmares-Right?

Occupying a small area contained in chain link fence on 12th street and the boardwalk, not far from Jilly’s , Graveyard Golf had some of the most jaw dropping fiberglass statues I’ve ever seen in person. A larger than life Dracula perfect for a “high five” photo op guarded a fanged hole, spiders, goblins, and ghosts dotted the landscape. You could even find a vacationing Freddy Krueger donning his beach wear and beads at the exit.

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All the classics were represented, but seemed just a little “off” like The Creature From the Black Lagoon, whose sculpt was just different enough to keep the Universal lawyers away, or the Wolfman who slightly resembled the cowardly lion with pointed ears.
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Then there was this Gargoyle, who looked suspiciously like the Gargoyle played by Bernie Casey in the 1972 made for TV movie, Gargoyles. (Didn’t think I’d catch that one, did you, statue sculptor ?)
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The sculpts were like nothing I’d ever seen, and I don’t know what became of any of these figures. After several more trips to Ocean City, Graveyard Golf had vanished and become a memory. A few people remember it when I bring it up, but many have no recollection of this place ever existing. These photos are from the summer of 2006. Now there are no more witches, devils, vultures or skulls. Does anyone out there in kiddieland know anything more about this course? It was a favorite, and I’d love to see (or possibly purchase) any of these statues if they are sitting out there in a garage somewhere.
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There are still plenty of places to play golf in Ocean city. For those looking for a spooky experience, there is even a “Haunted Golf” featuring an indoor course with animated figures and high tech lighting effects and modern pop music blasting like a night club, but it can’t hold a candle to Graveyard Golf’s simplicity and charm. This is one that is really, truly missed.

Happy haunting and here’s to hoping these guys all survived and are out there somewhere! I can’t be the only one who wants to see them back on the boardwalk!