Disneyland: A Division of Vandelay Industries

Seinfeld fans may remember Vandelay Industries, the fictional business invented by George Costanza as a means of falsifying his employment.  As I recall, Vandelay started as a latex business, but evolved into an import/export company.  It had what is known as a “diversified business model.”

Imports:  Chips (potato; some corn).  Exports: Diapers

Disneyland is a bit of an exporter itself.  Being the original theme park, having been dreamed up by Walt himself (with absolutely no help from a single other individual), it set the gold standard for the company’s theme parks around the globe.  Today there are very few attractions at Disneyland that have not been cloned at other parks.  It seems every Magic Kingdom has a train, a castle, a Peter Pan ride, a jewel-encrusted equine-footwear saloon.

Even the non-Magic Kingdom parks steal attractions from Disneyland.  The Indiana Jones Adventure found its way to Tokyo DisneySea.  Star Tours docked in Hollywood Studios.  Captain EO landed in Epcot, which also went cuckoo for CircleVision.

When it comes to imports, however, Disneyland tends to keep itself fairly pure.  Sure, California Adventure robs amply from Florida to round out its repertoire.  MuppetVision, It’s Tough to Be A Bug, and Tower of Tower were all borrowed from Walt Disney World.  But Disneyland has been around for 55 years now, and I can only think of 6 attractions that were ever borrowed from its grandchildren (and no, we’re not talking about the World’s Fair Fab Four).  I’ll give you about 8 seconds to come up with them on your own.  Time’s up.  Now it’s time to start listing them.

Space Mountain

This is a biggie.  Magic Kingdom had it first by a couple years, and for the longest time had the better version, with an extensive postshow and two different tracks.  Disneyland closed the book on this argument by adding onboard audio, which drastically enhances the ride experience.  They’ve also added seasonal overlays (Rockit Space Mountain and Ghost Galaxy) to give riders a fresh take on an old classic.

At one time, it was also painted puke bronze, a color universally loved by fans.  We cried when Disneyland restored the original white paint job.  Really, we did.  Seriously.  Okay, we didn’t.

Country Bear Jamboree

Another Florida original that went West.  Though the show was originally developed for a proposed ski resort at Mineral King, it ended up in the Magic Kingdom by default and proved hugely popular.  So popular that when Disneyland cloned it, they built two theaters, but the show was such a people-eater that they never really needed that much capacity.  Many years later, it closed to make room for…

Give Disneyland credit for creating the seasonal Vacation Hoedown and Christmas shows, which Walt Disney World was content to steal right back.  And give WDW credit for continuing to run those seasonal shows.  Oh wait.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Roundly viewed by Disneylanders as some what of a failure, the ride is actually a fine little Fantasyland-style dark ride, although a lesser clone to the one that first debuted at the Magic Kingdom.  For awhile, Disneyland boasted a better exterior, with a more natural, woodsy facade, but recently the Magic Kingdom regained the crown with its impressive, immersive, interactive queue.

Of course, neither Florida nor California can hold a candle to Tokyo’s version, which features free-roaming honeypots, and in typical Tokyo fashion also gives you a million dollars at the end of the ride.

Honey, I Shrunk the Audience

Disneyland’s Magic Eye theater evicted the groundbreaking Captain EO as part of a reimagining of Tomorrowland in 1997.  This popular Rick Moranis movie from Epcot moved in to take its place.  The show felt out of place in Tomorrowland and never really took off (much like the rest of that Tomorrowland makeover).  It closed earlier this year and was replaced by… Captain EO.

We fully expect HISTA to return after Rick Moranis’s death creates a huge tidal wave of public interest.


Calling this an attraction would be a joke, if it wasn’t so tragic.  Disneyland’s historical Carousel theater was gutted for a trade-show of awful corporate exhibits, an idea imported from Epcot’s similarly awful Innoventions pavilion.  It’s still there, and still 300 times more boring than listening to America Sings.

This Innoventions improved upon the original by actually forcing you to wait in a line to gain entrance.  That is sarcasm, for those of who don’t read parkeology on a regular basis.

Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters

The popular ride-through shooting gallery from the Magic Kingdom found a home in Tomorrowland after the Rocket Rods moved out.  It does not share the “Space Ranger Spin” title from Florida because the cars do not have teacup-like maneuverability.  Instead, it swiped the name from one of the rides at DisneyQuest.  Along with Space Mountain, this has been one of the more popular imports.

I love how the marketing folks helpfully added which movie inspired this ride.   As if it just doesn’t sound interesting enough.

Comments (12)

  1. Christopher, that’s a great catch, but I stand by my original intention. the rides were developed more or less simultaneously. Tokyo just happened to get theirs open first (see Captain EO discussion above).

  2. Here’s a truely “lesser-known” addition:

    Pinocchio’s Daring Journey was part of Tokyo Disneyland’s opening attractions on Apr 15, 1983. That is approximately six weeks prior to Anaheim’s New Fantasyland opening on May 25, 1983.

    **I waited 9 months to comment, so as not to embarrass your fact-checking**

  3. Consider yourself mocked Shane.

    You and lists go together like DIsney Studios Paris and High quality entertainment.

  4. Great point, Walter! A clear mistake by me. Disneyland did indeed have “Toontown” first, but I had completely forgotten that the one building in Birthdayland/Starland that wasn’t an ugly facade was Mickey’s House. Time for Teevtee to mock me again.

  5. Mickey’s House opened at the Magic Kingdom as part of Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988; Disneyland didn’t get it until Toontown opened in 1993.

  6. To FoxxFur’s and Brer’s point, it’s pretty clear from history that Big Thunder was first proposed for WDW.

    However, according to Jason Surrell’s “The Disney Mountains,” The WDW version was actually shelved in favor of Space Mountain. About that time, Disneyland wanted to reuse the Nature’s Wonderland stuff, and Baxter quickly repurposed the Big Thunder plans for Disneyland.

    Then, after Disneyland’s was well into construction, WDW decided they wanted their version also.

    So the idea originated with WDW, sat on the shelf, was picked up by Disneyland, and then finally greenlit by WDW. Similar things have happened with other rides. The Great Movie Ride was originally planned for Epcot, but spun off into its own park. Country Bears was planned for Mineral King. Liberty Square spun off of Edison Square. American Waterfront at TDS borrows from Disney’s America.

    I call it a wash 🙂

  7. There’s actually a more solid case for Big Thunder being a WDW original despite opening at Disneyland first. The Florida ride was the first one designed, with the more obvious geographic landscape choice (Monument Valley), superior placement interfacing with various elements around the river (remember when you could get a perfect split second glimpse of the burning cabin when it was burning?), more logical queue setup (it’s a mine train so you descend into a mine to board the train instead of ascending to a station and going into a mine), and more open layout.

    I think the reason it went into DL first is strictly for budgetary reasons: WED knew they were going to repurpose all those Nature’s Wonderland figures and so they had to close Nature’s Wonderland before building either version. Since this was back when Disney hated to just waste attraction space, Disneyland’s tiny version was squeezed in first.

    I was always uncertain that the FL version really was designed first until I realized that it is the only Big Thunder without a splash-down effect, despite having the dinosaur bones and a pond right there to do it in. It’s probably because the effect wasn’t thought up until the second incarnation, and became in some ways Big Thunder’s signature effect.

  8. Teevtee thinks that it’s a crime to clarify things after the fact, in spite of authoring an entire series on his subjective ranking of all the Disney theme parks! But I can’t help commenting.

    To me, Astro Orbitors is the same thing as StarJets. I know it has a different name, a new fiberglass overlay, and they moved the location, but it’s still fundamentally just a rebranding of the same thing. Like calling “Cinderella’s Golden Carousel” “Prince Charming Regal Carousel.”

    Big Thunder borrows and reuses so many of Nature’s Wonderland elements that it’s hard for me to think of it as originating with Disney World. And the Subs are a good point, because they do incorporate new elements that debuted first at Epcot. But I believe that it was first planned for the Sub Lagoon. Epcot just happened to open their version first.

    Similarly, while Captain EO technically debuted a week earlier at WDW, I find it hard to call that an import from another park! Clearly it was planned for both coasts from the get-go.

  9. Good call Brer…

    I was specifically thinking of how Shane listed Captain Eo as landing in EPCOT after DIsneyland when in fact they were virtually simultaneous premiers but I believe it debuted at EPCOT about a week BEFORE Disneyland… therefore technically making it a WDW original that later opened as DL.

  10. Great list!

    I had all the Tomorrowland ones, but missed the Bear/Critter Country imports!

    Ok, as for what Teevtee said:

    Wouldn’t we say that Astro Orbitor is an import from Paris? I know it’s a take on the Jets concept, but I think it’s as sufficiently different as Dumbo or the Flying Carpets to count as a different altogether ride.

    The Finding Nemo subs could almost count, but I think the concept is different enough from the Seas to not make this list.

    While Big Thunder was first at Land, you could argue the idea was originally planned for the Magic Kingdom’s Western River Expedition….

    Brer Dan

  11. Oh boy…. here we go.

    Whenever Shane makes a list it is quickly followed by updates, corrections and additions…

    I know of at least one issue with his list… I am sure there are others… but I will wait to see if anyone else catches them.

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