What if Disneyland Arrived 60 Years Too Late?

Try to imagine, just for a moment, a giant space monster punching Father Time right in the teeth.

A punch hard enough to jar loose sixty years. A half-dozen meaningless decades. A skip on the record player of history.

Now imagine that this cataclysmic punch occurred in 1901.

History shrugs it off. Life finds a way. And everything remains almost exactly the same.


Then in 1961, during a snowy December evening in Chicago, IL, a young man named Walter Elias Disney is born.

This Walt would grow up in the land of free love and civil rights. Drive ambulances in Vietnam. Create psychedelic ads in Kansas City. Head to Hollywood during the era of Serpico and The Godfather.

Mickey Mouse would debut just days after the election of Bush ’41. The Three Little Pigs during Clinton’s first year in office. Titanic would hold the box office record for only one year before ceding it to Snow White.

There would be goodwill tours to the Middle East (“Saludos Habibis!”). A dark period of Gulf War propaganda films. The first Disney live-action movies would appear about the same time as the iPad.

And Walt—who never backed down from new technology—might have launched his weekly television show on YouTube.

Then he would build a theme park.

Main Street, U.S.A.

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past. And here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” –Disneyland Dedication Plaque, July 17, 2015

Here is a country in transition, from the Nifty Fifties to the Swinging Sixties. The charming storefronts of yesteryear beckon you with bold logos and neon signs, promising the comforting service you’ve come to expect from JC Penney’s, Montgomery Ward, and Rexall Drugs.

In Town Square, you just might catch a show from the Main Street cheerleaders as they pump up the crowd for the weekend’s big football game. Or take in a performance by the resident rock-n-roll band on the grassy field surrounding the gazebo.

This is the age of yester-year. The era of Walt Disney’s cherished childhood. This is Main Street U.S.A.

The Main Street Vehicles – Hop aboard a high-fin Cadillac, a Greyhound bus, or even a trippy hippy van for a one-way journey up Main Street. Nighttime is especially magical, when the neon comes on and the vehicles go into “Cruisin’” mode.

Main Street Cinema – Step inside the air-conditioned confines of this vintage precursor to the modern home theater, where classic movies play continually on eight screens. You’ll thrill to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, fall in love with Marilyn Monroe, or laugh hysterically at everyone’s favorite neurotic, Woody Allen.

The Disneyland Interstate Highway – The crown jewel of Main Street is the On-Ramp to the Disneyland Interstate, which offers you a grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom, with exits at several lands along the way. This loving recreation of the Interstate Era comes straight from the childhood of Walt Disney himself, who once spent a formative summer as a roadside salesman, hawking encyclopedias to housewives along the brand new highway system of the United States.

Town Hall – Information, Guide Maps, Dining Reservations, Storage Lockers, Charging Stations. Civic protests performed daily.


“A wonderland of nature’s own design from the True-Life Adventures Brain Trust.” – Disneyland Podcast Episode 1

Adventureland takes its cue from a revolutionary form of storytelling pioneered by the visionary imagination of Walt Disney!

Step across the bridge from Main Street and you’ll find yourself inside one of the interconnected tales of Phase 1 and 2 of the Disney True-Life Adventures Cinematic Universe.

Disney True-Life Adventures Assemble: Vanishing Prairie Cruise – Guests board colorful launches for a scenic trip down river, accompanied by wisecracking, pop-culture savvy skippers. Come face to face with the sharp-toothed citizens of Beaver Valley as they team up with The African Lion and Perri the squirrel to conquer the evil genius known as The Living Desert. Featuring a script by Joss Whedon.

Adventureland BazaarDisney True-Life Adventures comic books, action figures, costumes, memorabilia. Note: Due to previous licensing agreements with other media companies, merchandise featuring Seal Island and White Wilderness is not available in Disneyland.


“Frontierland! Tall tales and true from the burned out fragments of dystopian society.”—Disney Parks Blog Metadata

Every era has its craze. The 1950s had Westerns on every screen, big and small. Now today’s most popular story setting springs to life off page and screen, ushering you into a gray and dismal world, where every day is a fight for survival among oppressed teenagers.

District Twain – The mournful whistle of this floating prison camp welcomes you aboard for a “ten year sentence” down the irradiated Rivers of America. You’ll drift among the poisoned fog banks, explore the holographic Logger-Jammer Forest, and overthrow The Over-Chancellor during this 15-minute leisure cruise.

Maze Run Through Nature’s Wonderland – Every teetering rock formation means danger. Every erupting geyser hides a secret. And supplies are running out. As junior members of the scrappy “Mountain Lion Gang,” guests don tight-fitting, impractical jumpsuits to try and outwit the infamous Rainbow Ridge Consortium.

Convergent – Guests participate in an interactive personality survey before being sorted into one of three Tribes: Conestoga, Pack Mule, or Stagecoach. What happens next is up to you! Will you break down the societal barriers meant to inhibit cooperation? Or will the Supreme Benefactor keep you enslaved under his mutated thumb?

The Golden Horseshoe Arena – 10 lucky guests (ages 9-15) will be selected to compete in a fight to the death for the right to be crowned Frontierland Champion. See Times Guide for showtimes.


“#Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and #younginheart. To those who believe that when you#wishuponastar, your dreams come true.” –@RetlawYensid (Walt Disney’s Personal Twitter Account)

Over the drawbridge and through the castle gates lies Fantasyland, home to all the wonderful stories you’ve come to love from Walt Disney Studios. The happiest kingdom of them all for children of all ages, but especially for the very young!

Drowsy Castle – At the end of Main Street U.S.A stand the fairy tale spires of Drowsy Castle, from Walt Disney’s upcoming animated hit, Drowsy. The story follows the timeless tale of the spunky princess who overcame a bad case of narcolepsy and the schemes of an evil fairy to rescue her mother and father, save a helpless but handsome prince from his controlling father, and awaken a kingdom to the beauty within it – all while pursuing her dream of a becoming a fashion designer with help from a magic spinning wheel. Drowsy Castle offers spa services, where young princesses-in-training (and moms too!) can pamper themselves with Drowsy Massages and pedicures.

Soarin’ Over Neverland with Peter Pan and Friends – Don a pair of pixie dust goggles and strap yourself into an authentic Lost Boy hang-glider for a thrilling flight over Neverland in this motion simulator attraction. Dodge cannonballs from the Jolly Roger, swoop over Skull Rock, and come face to face with the nefarious Captain Hook. Minimum Height 40 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Wild Ride Through England ~ The Adventures of Walt Disney’s Mr. Toad and Friends – Design your own motorcar, snap on your 3-D driving goggles, then step behind the wheel for a zany jaunt through London, where your vehicle will go onroad, offroad, and nowhere in particular on this high-speed turbulent adventure. Minimum Height 40 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures Featuring the Seven Dwarfs – Step aboard this revolutionary trackless robo-arm contraption built by the Seven Dwarfs, which will send you careening through a seamless forest of practical sets and video mapping technology, in an effort to escape the wicked Queen—all brought to life through the magic of your 3-D “diamond spectacles.” Minimum Height 40 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Walt Disney and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Starring YOU! – You’ll scream “off (with) your head” as you twirl in a death-defying loop high above Fantasyland! This mega-thrill ride – the tallest in Disneyland at nearly 200 feet – is not for the faint of heart (or Queens of Hearts). 3-D “tea glasses” required. Minimum Height 48 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Dumbo’s Nursery – Everyone will enjoy this themed waiting area, decorated with static props from Walt Disney’s timeless live-action classic, Dumbo. Children must be accompanied by an expectant mother.


“Promise of thing[s] to come, in part or in whole, to be defined at such time as is mutually agreed upon.” – Joint Press Release, The Walt Disney Company and IBM

The future beckons from the gleaming spires of Tomorrowland, showcase of the strategic corporate partnerships of The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiary holdings.

Here guests can enjoy just-in-time delivery of entertainment-based initiatives through the magic of brand penetration, while leveraging best-in-class assets to synergistically monetize the client-centric vacation experience.

Dronetopia Sponsored by Amazon – Guests young and old take control of a remote aircraft, piloting an Amazon Prime shipment through a challenging wooded course through Tomorrowland.

SEO Hall of Fame Sponsored by Google – Advancements in the breathtaking field of search engine optimization and deep indexing are on display in this interactive kiosk adventure.

PRC Marsliner Rocket – Topping out at nearly 190 feet, this full-scale replica of a top-secret space craft is a testament to the continuing emergence of China in the global market, and a stark warning to America’s previously dominant space program. The Marsliner sets the stage for the thrilling Flight to Mars simulator attraction, where guests race against the clock to stave off economic collapse in the face of rising national debt, all while watching another country win the race to Mars.

Circarama Theater Sponsored by Siemens– This 360-degree IMAX theater is currently home to the stirring and powerful film, Innovironmentions. This spectacle of corporate responsibility raises awareness of the very real struggle faced by companies in today’s political climate, highlighting diversity efforts and green initiatives in response to a groundswell of public support for environmental factors in the marketplace.

Tomorrowland Gallery Sponsored by Brad Bird – View lifeless pictures of props from the latest box office flops in this temporary placeholder attraction. Also serves slushies.


The man who invented paradise: The secret history of Disney’s Tiki Room & Trader Sam’s

Upon hitting the scene in 2011 The Disneyland Hotel’s Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar became an instant hit. How could it not be? After all, it combines several things Disney does extremely well: heavily themed environments, clever special effects and deep back-story. Of course it also includes alcohol that curiously and inexplicably remains a major draw for many Disney fans (take a trip to Epcot during the food and wine festival for unfortunate, sloppy proof of this).


It could have opened 50 years earlier and been right on point.

After enjoying several years as the only Disney Tiki bar (making many of us scratch our heads, bewildered as to why it took over 55 years for Disney to get around to building one), Trader Sam’s expanded this Spring with an all new location in the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World. The perfect and obvious choice for a Tiki bar now proudly has one (this time called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto) and the crowds are proving once again that Tiki is back and perhaps poised to become even bigger.


A synthetic, idealized South Pacific resort surely deserves a synthetic idealized tiki bar!

Most people, even non-Disney fans, grasp that the parks inspired both Trader Sam’s locations. They clearly have an Adventureland feel to them (even sharing their names with the Jungle Cruise character) that would be obvious to anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the parks who wandered in. The West Coast version takes most of its inspiration from the Jungle Cruise and The Enchanted Tiki Room while the East Coast incarnation adds elements of the sadly defunct Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea attraction.


Is this Trader Sam?



Or is this Trader Sam? It all depends on which coast you are from.

In many ways, both locations have finally brought to fruition a concept Walt Disney had dating back to the early days of Disneyland. Over and over again, Imagineering has tried to combine Disney style show elements and exotically themed environments with dining establishments. Famously, the original concept for the Tiki Room started as a restaurant and dinner show before being scaled back to the current show (though you can enjoy Dole Whips inside the original Disneyland version).


The original concept for the Enchanted Tiki Room has tables and food and feels a lot like Trader Sam’s does today.

The Blue Bayou restaurant in New Orleans Square layered rich environments on top of a dining location and many other Disney restaurants have taken that same path over the years (Epcot’s San Angel Inn, Disneyland’s Tahitian Terrance, The Explorers Club in Disneyland Paris and so on). Even Club 33, the members only, off limits to regular riff-raff, bucket-list worthy private club originally called for interactive animatronics to entertain diners. Yet somehow, over all of this time, Disney had never successfully combined themed environments, attraction-like show elements and dining all in one… they have come close but never quite nailed it.


I want to love the Adventurers Club but I could never warm up to it… to much “Kungaloosh!” and not enough charm or whimsy.

The former Adventurers Club, on the also former Pleasure Island, came close. It did have animatronics and show elements in a richly themed environment, but it also had regulars who often took over the property and created an oddly exclusive feel, one in which regular folk were not in on the jokes and unwelcome (Kungaloosh!… oh shut up please). Beyond that, “forced fun” (a somewhat uniquely Disney experience where the pressure to have fun becomes so great that actual fun becomes impossible) would often overwhelm a visit.


Yea!!!!! Look how much fun we are having!!!! Yipeeeeeeee. That one guy even has a noise maker… YES!

The Adventurers Club tried so hard to be fun and irreverent and off beat and spontaneous that it usually failed to be any of these things. It did have a great environment and served drinks and perhaps some simple snacks… however it was basically a comedy club with a bar attached, not really what Walt was going for with his original concept of the Enchanted Tiki Room.

With Trader Sam’s Disney scaled things down, made the room intimate and lavished layer upon layer of thematic details. It may be enjoyed on the simple premise that it is a Tiki bar or one can delve deeper and find hidden jokes and references to past and current attractions. They of course serve Tiki drinks in a variety of exotic and elaborate mugs (as is Tiki bar tradition) and enough food that a group could eat a meal there. Furthermore, there are legitimate show elements happening all around you. Ordering specific drinks will trigger special effect sequences that range from erupting volcanoes to sinking ships. Trader Sam’s is fun, it is for the most part inclusive and is as close to Walt Disney’s concept of the Tiki Room as we are likely to get.


Hey José, pass the guacamole will ya?

Considering that you are reading this on a website devoted to the small details of the Disney parks you likely know all of this already, in fact you have probably been to one or perhaps both locations. Maybe you have a souvenir Zombie mug sitting on your desk, or maybe you have custom built shelves to hold your complete collection of Tiki mugs (we are not judging you). But few fans have really thought about why any of this exists in the first place, why was Walt so intrigued by Polynesian and Tiki themes? It may have taken six decades to get here but where did it all begin?


The future is now!

Mid-Century America was an interesting time and place. Technology was delivering experiences never before dreamed of. The United States enjoyed an economic and cultural leadership role but also toiled under the “Red Scare” and newfound pressures to move to the suburbs locked into a 30-year mortgage. It was both an exciting and uncharted time filled with humor and a certain synthetic feel. Polyester was better than cotton, frozen food was better than fresh, Monsanto was paving the way to the future and artificial turf was going to replace lawns everywhere: it was the American dream! Disneyland was created at perhaps the only time in history that it could have been, it is very much a reflection of the popular culture of the time. As much as we hate it when Disney tries to be “hip” and “edgy” the truth is that Disneyland has ALWAYS been tied into the zeitgeist. The mid-fifties was a time when multiple trends were emerging within pop culture. Westerns were at their peak (thus Frontierland), the googie architectural movement with its atomic age shapes and space age excitement was in high gear (fueled by the space race over the next 15 years) and so Tomorrowland was born. There was also a fascination with exotic locales and cultures that were foreign to most Americans; the Tiki movement exemplified this and Adventureland became Disneyland’s physical manifestation of it. What later became ironic, kitschy or at worst; tacky, was in fact a hugely popular cultural movement that covered the entire country and lasted over 40 years.


Mickey Mouse poaching ivory… you probably would not see that today.

The Tiki movement started in California in 1933 when Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt (a young unemployed former prohibition era bootlegger) took the nom de plume of Donn Beach (he later legally adopted this name) and opened up Don the Beachcomber. It was a small bar located in an old tailor’s shop in Hollywood. Decorated with bamboo, thatch roofs and tropical knick-knacks picked up form his island travels, it became an instant smash. Don expanded to a larger location and soon the Hollywood elite (such as Walt Disney) were hanging out drinking the rum and fruit juice cocktails Don concocted with an eye on escapism. Even though these drinks were based on Caribbean liquor and had absolutely nothing to do with the South Pacific (and the actual use of Tiki statues would not come for many years to follow) Tiki as we know it was born.


Meet Mr. Beach… without him you would not have Trader Sam’s, the Tiki Room, the Dole Whip or life as you know it.

This was a time when air travel was just becoming democratized, it was just starting to reach a point where an average person could travel great distances. Previously you may be born in Kansas, grow up in Kansas and die in Kansas. Kansas was your world, Kansas was what you knew… the idea of beaches and palm trees and untamed native girls was as far away as the dark side of the moon. Visiting Don’s bar was like traveling across the globe to a fantastic shangri la you never knew existed, or perhaps knew could only exist in a place like this.


The original Don’s Beachcomber Cafe gave birth to a trend that would last decades and spawn countless copies.

Don served in the Army during World War II and his wife took over and expanded the chain of bars when he was away (16 locations by the time he returned). When the war ended many soldiers came home from the Pacific theater suppressing the horrors they experienced and instead telling stories of uncharted beaches, topless girls and exotic food and drink. The country and the folks who lived and died in Kansas were fascinated. The fact that these tales were mostly fictional and bastardized hodgepodges  of Oceanic, Caribbean and African cultures (plus a good heap of pure fantasy) mattered less than the fact that they brought escapism, fun and relief from a long period of conflict. Looking at Tiki bars to learn about Polynesian culture would be like looking at the Country Bear Jamboree to learn about the mating habits of grizzlies; it was all make believe.

Mating occurs from May through July with a peak in mid-June. Female grizzlies begin bearing young at 3 to 8 years of age, and litter size varies from one to four cubs, with an average litter of two. Grizzly bears have a promiscuous mating system: cubs from the same litter can have different fathers.

Mating occurs from May through July with a peak in mid-June. Female grizzlies begin bearing young at 3 to 8 years of age, and litter size varies from one to four cubs, with an average litter of two. Grizzly bears have a promiscuous mating system: cubs from the same litter can have different fathers.

The world was getting smaller and these far-off fantasies were tantalizingly within grasp. Hawaii joined the union as our 50th state and interest in Tiki was at an all time high. The parallels of what was happening in popular culture and what Disney was doing, both in entertainment and eventually his park, cannot be overstated.


A white girl in a grass skirt with a Chinese gong, a couple South Pacific Tikis, an African patterned rug, Hawaiian leis and holding a flaming drink made with Caribbean rum… all seems pretty authentic and culturally sensitive to me.

Many others joined the Tiki craze, most notably Victor J. Bergeron who opened a series of Trader Vic’s bars and restaurants. Vic brought a culinary element to Don’s mixology and while the two remained amicable rivals throughout their careers they also built upon each other’s successes. Soon patrons all over the world were enjoying “exotic” tropical dishes (really Americanized and homogenized Cantonese recipes) while sipping now classic rum drinks (such as the Mai Tai) in heavily themed, dramatically presented environments. Grand Tiki bars often had a sense of drama not found in your average drinking hole. Dimly lit and often isolated in the basement of hotels (the windowless locations allowed complete control of the environment), many featured waterfalls, grottos and flickering torches. Tribal drum beats, skulls and exotic flora and fauna were highlights. These were in essence Walt’s vision of the Tiki Room sans the singing birds twenty or thirty years before the Tiki Room would see the light of day. They were the prototypes for Adventureland and themed entertainment in general decades before Disneyland defined the genre.


Vic brought food to Tiki, and giant wicker chairs, and volcanoes on tables… and mildy racist stereotypes as well I guess…



All the New York Trader Vic’s was missing is some wise-cracking talking birds (whose mildly racist stereotypes would fit right in).


¡Ay, caramba! Who are you calling mildly racist señor?

The country fell in love; Donn’s little creation became a national obsession. Tiki was not contained simply to bars, by the mid-century it was everywhere; apartment buildings, hotels, bowling alleys, shopping malls, miniature golf, fashion and entertainment. Hula hoops, Hula lamps, Hula dolls and more. Movies such as South Pacific, Blue Hawaii and even Swiss Family Robinson swept audiences away to tropical paradise. Hawaiian shirts were worn without a trace of irony. Home furnishings were fabricated from bamboo and coconut shells. Exotic lounge music (known as exotica and mixing Oceanic and African influences) topped the charts.

The sounds of exotica filled the air

The sounds of exotica filled the air

Even entire amusement parks were created to celebrate the newly en vogue cultural direction. Tiki enjoyed great longevity running from the mid 1930’s through the 1970’s before finally drifting into the world of kitsch by the 1980’s and off the map altogether in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Tiki Gardens was a theme park located in (where else) Florida.

Tiki Gardens was a theme park located in (where else) Florida.



Live the Tiki lifestyle!



If you build it they will come: A proposed but never built Tiki Bowling Alley.

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opened during the latter part of the trend in 1963. Tiki was neither invented by Disney nor even re-invented by Disney, it was simply a part of a much larger movement, and it was Disney’s attempt at being “hip” and “edgy” for those times. To be fair Disney did put a spin on it by taking the traditional décor of Tiki and upping the ante with animatronics and theatrical lighting effects. But like much of American culture both Disney, and the Tiki movement in general, stole cultural symbolism and artifacts and transformed them into entertainment for the masses. Many Tiki statues served significant religious roles to cultures not at all understood by the white guys who appropriated them, thus were the ways of mid-century America. Nevertheless the Tiki trend was one of the most significant and widespread of our pop-culture history.


Choose your religious icon of choice, now make it into a mug and serve a boozy slushy out of it… sounds crazy and yet that is exactly what happened.

By the time the seventies came around, Tiki was old enough that those who were interested in it during their youth had kids of their own… those offspring would often look at what their parents thought of as being cool and fun and (in the case of Tiki) escapism, and find it tired, tacky and embarrassing. Tiki was nearing its end. The Vietnam War changed the country’s view of the tropics, palm trees and jungles no longer meant paradise. At this same time American culture was shifting to more realistic and gritty forms of entertainment, cop movies displaced romantic tropical tales at the local theater and elaborately embellished fruity drinks were suddenly passé (not to mention that over the decades they declined in quality from carefully balanced creations to straight from a can syrupy sweet disasters).

Yea Mom... that's really "groovy".

Yea Mom… that’s really “groovy”.

Interestingly, Disney was in the midst of building another elaborate homage to Tiki and Polynesia: The Polynesian Village Resort. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the “Polynesian” as it was commonly known was one of the original hotels. Complete with Tiki carvings, torches, rain forests, luaus and waterfalls the hotel serves as a last great tribute to the Tiki movement and, in typical Disney fashion, was created just as the trend was ending: Disney never has been good at being hip and edgy after all. Despite all of its many nods to Tiki the Polynesian never had an actual Tiki bar… perhaps even Disney knew the ride was over at that point?

Just an excuse to post one of the most beautiful attraction posters of all time.

Just an excuse to post one of the most beautiful attraction posters of all time.

Coming full circle, the Polynesian Village now enjoys it’s own version of Trader Sam’s and Tiki is making a major comeback. Super trendy bars in San Francisco (Smugglers Cove), London (Mahiki), Chicago (Lost Lake, Three Dots and a Dash), New York (PKNY) and elsewhere have spearheaded a renaissance. The kids of the kids who rebelled against Tiki are now embracing it once again, appreciating the creativity and the style the originals brought to the scene. But how are the two Disney versions? After all this time do they capture the spirit of Tiki?

Today new Tiki bars like Lost Lake in Chicago carry on the traditions of Don Beach.

Today new Tiki bars like Lost Lake in Chicago carry on the traditions of Donn Beach.

The answer is a definite “maybe”. They are at once classic Tiki and totally anti-Tiki… they are Tiki bars as only Disney could do them.

Stay tuned for part two when we visit both versions of Trader Sam’s and see what they are all about. In the meantime raise a glass to dear old Don the Beachcomber and thank him for all the fun you have had over the years. Without Donn there is no Tiki, no national obsession with Polynesia, no Adventureland and ultimately, perhaps, no Disneyland.

Connect Every Animated Film to the Parks – The 1950s and 1960s and the Rise of Disneyland

Each of the 54 canonical Disney Animated Features has a connection to the theme parks. And we’ll find them all or die trying.

Today we take a look at the movies of the 1950s and 60s. Other time periods are labeled “The Golden Age of Disney Animation,” but the films of this era are so brilliant, it’s no wonder that Disneyland emerged during this same creative timeframe.

This is the fourth volume of our continuing series, but in case you missed them…

#19 The Jungle Book (1967)

Though the movie is infused with iconic characters and a groovy jungle beat, only a lot of terribly minor stuff remains today—the usual character spots and Jungle Cruise throwaway jokes about books in the jungle.

Those cursed with remembering Mickey’s Starland may recall that characters from Tail Spin appeared in the Disney Afternoon Stage Show. And King Louie scared the crap out of me as a drummer in the Mickey Mouse Revue.

Also the Pop Century Resort has enormous fiberglass statues of Mowgli and Baloo, because nothing says “pop culture” like a giant impoverished kid in a diaper.

For the longest time, the best Jungle Book tie-in was Kaa in Disneyland’s Fantasmic. The Florida version wisely replaced him with a cobra that had about 18 seconds of screen time in Aladdin.

Jungle Book’s crowning achievement came with the opening of Animal Kingdom in 1998. Journey Into Jungle Book was the first show to play in the open-air Theater in the Wild, which is now enclosed and hosting a musical version of a movie with no songs in it.

Journey Into Jungle Book heavily emphasized the songs, but the presentation fell flat. Maybe because of the purple bear fur. It’s also possible that by 1998, audiences just weren’t interested in a long-format stage show based on a movie from 30 years ago.

Journey Into Jungle Book closed after only one year.

They promptly replaced it with rollerblading monkeys.

#18 The Sword in the Stone (1963)

They never built a classic Fantasyland dark ride based on the story of the young boy who would eventually become king of England, find the Holy Grail, and study the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the entire design motif of Disney World’s Fantasyland came from Sword in the Stone, given that the whole thing is decked out like a medieval tournament.

At any rate, the Carrousel at Disneyland is named after King Arthur, which of course has many hand-painted panels depicting the classic story of… Sleeping Beauty.

The wizard Merlin has certainly popped up everywhere. Merlin’s Magic Shop was an early tenant at the Magic Kingdom, back when the park had three magic shops.

And of course Merlin is the face of the interactive in-park game, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

But for utter charm, the best Sword in the Stone experience is literally the Sword in the Stone. It sits in front of the Carrousel in most versions of the Magic Kingdom, and some of them still perform the Sword in the Stone ceremony, where Merlin selects volunteers to try to become king or queen of Fantasyland for a day.

Duties consist mostly of negotiating treaties with Adventureland.

Duties consist mostly of negotiating treaties with Adventureland.

In other news, Archimedes the owl appears in World of Disney’s marvelous bird mural.

#17 One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

There was a time when the Disney MGM Studios caught full-on Dalmatian fever, thanks to the live-action remake starring Glenn Close. We shall not discuss any of those efforts—neither the green-screen backlot crap they shoehorned into the Walking Tour, nor the hideous ABC Sound Studio foley junk that took over the Monster Sound Show.

The animated dogs make an appearance during Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom—a game which can’t be bothered to treat its source material with any sort of respect. And counterproductive to the film’s message, there’s the usual synthetic puppy furs sold at the various shops on property.

Speaking of which, Cruella de Vil is a much bigger deal than Pongo and the rest. She’s had her own float in parades, and anytime there’s a congregation of Disney Villains, she’s invited.

But apparently the largest scale implementation of puppy power can be found at…

—am I really going to use this? Yes, I have no choice.

The motherlovin’ All Star Movies Resort.

The only thing tackier is Odell Beckham Jr’s right glove dipped in superglue. And if that metaphor is creatively lazy, then it has something in common with the All Star Movies Resort.

#16 Sleeping Beauty (1959)

If you can’t think of a park tie-in to Sleeping Beauty, then you probably shouldn’t call yourself a Disney fan.

Small stuff first. Florida has the blue/pink dress gag from the film lurking in the background of Castle Couture in Fantasyland. And for some inexplicable reason, Sleeping Beauty’s King Stefan had a Banquet Hall on the second floor of Cinderella Castle for many years.

The characters pop up from time to time. The three fairies are in the Main Street Electrical Parade and Aurora currently holds court at France in Epcot.

Maleficent is the real belle of the ball when it comes to this movie. She practically owns Halloweentime. Castle stage shows, Halloween fireworks voice overs, etc.

Her dragon form is ubiquitous—Massive steam punk parade floats, Lego Store sculptures, and a towering fire-breathing behemoth in the finale of Fantasmic.

But the coup de grace for Sleepy Beauty has to be the castle.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Of the six Disney castles worldwide, Sleeping Beauty gets half of them. The movie may be a bit cold compared to other princess flicks, but when the very first castle in Disney history is named after it, it must be doing something right. The Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Paris may be more regal, but Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is a toy straight out of our imagination.

This is the symbol that sold the nation on the idea of Disneyland. It is such an icon for the company that for years it was featured as the logo for everything—not just theme parks, but TV shows, movies, merchandise, etc. Sleeping Beauty Castle simply is Disney.

Funny how her castle predates the movie by 4 years.

#15 Lady and the Tramp (1955)

As is the case with many movies featuring realistic animal characters, you won’t find many meet-and-greets from Lady and the Tramp. You’re more likely to get Gigantor versions of the characters at Pop Century Resort, where both Lady and Tramp appear.

You can, however, find an entire Magic Kingdom restaurant named after the film’s most minor characters. Tony, the Italian restauranteur who famously ignored his paying customers in order to serenade stray dogs, has his own Town Square cafe. It features Italian food, of course, and tasteful references to the movie.

Too bad the food is not as tasteful.

Too bad the food is not as tasteful. Photo © the star trader

Outside you can find a spot where the canine heroes have left their mark. Fortunately, it’s not the fire hydrant.

In Disneyland Paris, the pizzeria also has a Lady and the Tramp theme.

#14 Peter Pan (1953)

If Sleeping Beauty Castle got to be the logo for the Disneyland TV show, Tinker Bell got to be the host.

Tinker Bell is one of the all-time great Disney park characters. At castles around the world, she sets off the nightly fireworks displays with a wave of her wand and a dazzling flight from the highest tower.

And if that’s not enough, she sells merchandise by the bucketload, thanks to Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet areas and Tinker Bell’s Treasures toy shops.

Peter Pan is the perfect movie for theme parks. For the longest time Disneyland had a massive Skull Rock, alongside a full scale Captain Hook Pirate Ship and Chicken of the Sea Restaurant, which logically sold chicken dinners (actually tuna). Paris thought the idea was so good, they built their own chicken restaurant. Oh, and a Skull Rock.

On most nights, Captain Hook and Peter Pan transform the Columbia into a travelling stunt show at Disneyland’s Fantasmic while the Crocodile chases them from his own oversized barge. And Peter Pan is one of only two movies made prior to 1989 to get its own segment in Mickey’s Philharmagic.

One of the all-time great Disney MGM Studios attractions was the Back to Neverland tour at the Magic of Disney Animation, starring Robin Williams as a Lost Boy and Walter Cronkite as a pompous animation expert. If any attraction had Disney magic, that was the one.

But who are we kidding? The greatest theme park tie in from this movie is none other than Peter Pan’s Flight, the innovative Fantasyland dark ride that lets you crash a pirate ship through a window.

Florida’s version is awesome, Disneyland’s version is breathtaking, but I’ve heard that Paris’s version is truly magical.

Nothing is quite so magical as a flash picture in a dark ride.

Nothing is quite so magical as a flash picture in a dark ride.

#13 Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Just like Neverland, Wonderland seems to exist solely to provide theme parks with great source material.

If Sleeping Beauty had the iconic logo, and Tinker Bell had the iconic host duties, then Alice had the iconic Disneyland ride.

Mad Tea Party at Disneyland

The Mad Tea Party—known everywhere simply as the Tea Cups—has been spinning around since Opening Day back in 1955. It’s a standard carnival ride from a time when Disneyland wasn’t sure just how far it could deviate from the traditional amusement park fare. But unless you’re a giant Sorcerers Hat, icons have a way of enduring and the Tea Cups have been a park staple for 60 years.

Less familiar to American audiences may be Alice’s Curious Labyrinth in Disneyland Paris, where you can re-enact the ending to The Shining inside you’re very own Alice-themed hedge maze.

But for my money, Disneyland’s Alice in Wonderland ride takes the prize. It’s the only Fantasyland dark ride that goes inside and out, upstairs and down. And any ride where you’re sitting on a caterpillar is going to be top notch.

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Then again…

#12 Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella isn’t set on an adventurous Neverland isle, nor is it inside a zany Wonderland. Most of the action takes place in the servant’s quarters at a middle-class manor house.

Of course during a brief part of the movie, there’s also a castle.

Cinderella Castle graces both the Florida and the Tokyo versions of the Magic Kingdom, and while Sleeping Beauty’s version has charm without the large scale, Cinderella Castle gets the best of both worlds.

She has a Royal Table, a character greeting area, and a nice fairy tale hotel suite available only to contest winners and people from the royal family of Iger.

Cinderella Castle

On a more crass note, there are also Bibbity Bobbity Boutiques. These are apparently very popular, though I am not the target audience for these things, and I don’t think you will see any videos of two men in their forties getting their hair done on the next WDW46 adventure.

The Cinderella universe shows up in all the expected spots. Characters, fireworks, parades, Fantasmic. The Storybookland Canal Boats includes a scene or two. Even Prince Charming gets his name on the Carrousel in Florida.

Perhaps one of the more interesting tie-ins is at the Disney Wedding Pavilion, where brides arrive in Cinderella’s very own coach, hoping to avoid a hideous transformation at midnight, reminiscent of the plot of Gremlins.

There also used to be a castle stage show called Cinderellabration, imported from Tokyo.

The less said about that, the better.

#11 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

As we cross the threshold into the 1940s, we reach the first anthology film on our list. Two stories rolled into one. The deliciously creepy Ichabod and the zany Mr. Toad.

The Headless Horseman from the Ichabod segment is a Halloween mainstay. He introduces the Boo To You parade during Walt Disney World’s hard-ticket Halloween parties, and for years terrorized hayriders at Fort Wilderness (still a Disney World bucket list item that I’ll never get to complete).

Ichabod himself used to be in the highly-lucrative “Keel Boat Souvenir” business before Ichabod’s Landing disappeared from Liberty Square. But Sleepy Hollow Refreshments has been operating for decades, serving the finest waffles on property.

The Mr. Toad segment of the same movie, however, is famous more for its ride than for the film that inspired it.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is the outlier—the most subversive Disney attraction around. Not only isn’t it afraid to kill its audience in a grisly locomotive accident, it likes to send them to hell for good measure.

The Disneyland version has a much more charming exterior, while the Florida version was saddled with the medieval tournament look. Disney World made up for it by having two separate tracks, which were slightly different Toad experiences. The Walt Disney World version famously caused a ruckus when it closed for good way back in the 1990s, but Disneyland’s version is still going strong.

Toad Hall also exists in Paris, but as a restaurant. I hear the frog legs are delicious.

Only 10 more movies to go! Stay tuned for Part V!

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And Shane would personally love it if you checked out his thrilling pirate adventure novel Johnny Shipwreck. Available for Amazon Kindle!  (formerly titled The Raiders of Castillo del Mar).