Friday, May 3, 2019

New Fantasyland Grand Opening - May 1983

It was May of 1983. A good portion of Disneyland's Fantasyland had been closed for over a year, for a major remodeling. Park management announced that Fantasyland's "grand re-opening" would be taking place on Saturday, May 28th. This advertising supplement was included in The Los Angeles Times, a few weeks before the scheduled opening.

The special advertisement confirmed the date of the opening as Saturday, May 28th. My friend and I had never been to Disneyland for the grand opening of an attraction, so we made plans to be there on that day. Then a little snag came up. We found out from some cast members, that there was actually going to be a special grand opening ceremony and preview for the Press, three days earlier. When I called the park, they wouldn't tell me in advance whether or not the general public would be allowed into Fantasyland that day. We had to wait.

Finally, that day arrived. I called the park in the morning and asked the same question. They said "yes", the New Fantasyland was open to all park guests that day and that it would continue to be open for the next three days, leading up to the announced "official" grand opening date on Saturday, the 28th. I asked if any kind of special ceremony was planned again for Saturday and they said "no." I asked why they announced the official opening date on one day, when it was really opening three days earlier. I don't remember what they said exactly, but I do remember that it was a "canned Disney response."

So my friend and I decided to rush over to the park, so that we could say we were there on opening day. I had won free Disneyland tickets recently through the campus radio station at school, so I didn't have to worry about paying for this visit. Here is that ticket, dated May 25, 1983. I always hated it when the cast member that stamped your ticket at the gate, was careless about it and smeared the fresh ink.

Everyone coming into the park that day was being given this New Fantasyland button. By the way, they were NOT giving these out on the announced "official grand opening day," three days later. (My friend and I went back on that Saturday, because I had already taken the time off from work, and it had been our original plan to go to the park on that day, anyway.)

Members of the press were given this pin:

This is the entertainment guide that was available at the gate.

The inside is dated May 25th. The opening ceremony is listed along with special park hours. Since they would not tell us in advance whether or not we would be admitted into Fantasyland that day, and it was a last minute decision for us to go, we did not make it there in time for the opening ceremony at 10 a.m.! :-(

The Fall 1983 issue of Disney News Magazine featured a good shot from the opening ceremony on it's cover. Notice how the Castle drawbridge was in the "up" position. It was supposedly being lowered for the first time since opening day of the park, back in 1955. The guy in the bottom/middle of the photo, happened to be in "Fantasy On Parade" the year that I was in it.

The magazine included an article about Fantasyland's rededication, along with more photos of the opening ceremony.

The New Fantasyland's opening day festivities were covered by the local CBS TV show, 2 On The Town, with the hosts reporting live from Fantasyland. This advertisement was from The Los Angeles Times.

And this advertisement and TV listing were from the May 21-27th issue of TV Guide.

My friend and I ended up getting on camera for the live CBS show. We were also on two other channel's evening news reports. We had seen ourselves on a small TV monitor that was sitting on the ground, so we were pretty sure that we were shown during the live broadcast. My great-grandmother actually saw me on TV and called my mom to ask her if I was at Disneyland! I was also told by some people at work, that they saw me on the news. About 14 years later, I met someone who just happened to have recorded part of the 2 On The Town show and gave me a copy. Here is that partial recording of the show. The hosts are Steve Edwards and Melanie Rogers. I apologize for this not being complete. I wish I had the entire show!

And here are my pics that I took that day. I'm not sure why I didn't take more photos! Maybe I was just caught up in the excitement of everything being new.

These first two pictures were taken from the entrance to the Pinocchio attraction. This first one is looking in the direction of the newly relocated Dumbo's Flying Elephants. At this time, it did have Timothy Mouse on top of the hot air balloon in the center of the attraction, but it had not yet received the ornate centerpiece that would soon be installed below him.

This view was taken from the same spot, but looking over towards Peter Pan's Flight.

Alice In Wonderland did not reopen in 1983 with the rest of the New Fantasyland. Guests had to wait until the following year for that attraction. At this point, the track in the loading and unloading area had been ripped out and replaced with grass. The descending track on the winding "leaf" just ended as soon as it reached the ground (remember, the cars did not reenter the building in the original version!) and a sign was posted out front, stating that Alice would be back in 1984. There was also a low construction wall that kept guests back, but allowed them to view the old attraction facade and the new sign.

The "Sword in the Stone" ceremonies with Merlin, began on that very first day. The guy on the left was a member of the Make Believe Brass, which was a "musical comedy quintet" that performed throughout the New Fantasyland. Does anyone know when they discontinued the Sword in the Stone ceremonies?

This photo shows empty torch posts out on the bridge in front of the Castle. The banners had been removed from them for the rededication ceremony. Note the temporary "stone block" wall in the moat, to the left of the bridge. That wall is what hid the mechanism that allowed Maleficent to rise up into the air, during the opening ceremony (as seen earlier on that cover of Disney News Magazine). This was nine whole years before the appearance of Maleficent in "Fantasmic!"

This is the last pic that I took that day. It was already getting dark and I really needed a flash for this one.....and I REALLY wish I had a flash, because Annette Funicello (center) was standing just a few feet away from me and was being interviewed by Steve Edwards (in the hat on the left) and Melody Rogers (holding the microphone on the right). Can you see Annette? Try squinting. She's there, I swear! Unfortunately, this Annette interview from 2 On The Town is missing from the video clip above.

These next three pics were taken three days later on Saturday, May 28, 1983. Again, that was the day that was announced to the public as the "official" opening date for the New Fantasyland. In this pic of the Castle, we can see that the temporary structure from the opening ceremony had not yet been removed from the moat. We got there at park opening, but there wasn't any kind of ceremony held for the general public that day.

This shot of the brand new Pinocchio's Daring Journey attraction, shows the absence of the Pinocchio figure above the entrance. He wasn't added until many years later.

And this photo of the White Rabbit's house (the Mad Hatter Shop) shows how the railing in front of the house, used to go straight across, blocking the pathway. This was changed some years later, to allow guests to have access up to the miniature door. The window next to the door, also lost it's flower box at some point. Note the construction wall for the Alice In Wonderland attraction on the left, and how low it was.

Here is a more recent shot (from 2014), taken from almost the same angle.

This last photo was taken during the summer of 1983 and shows a little bit more of that construction wall (in the distance).

 We will end today, with the 1983 television commercial for the New Fantasyland:


K. Martinez said...

I have the L.A. Times advertising supplement and the Fall 1983 Disney News magazine featuring the New Fantasyland, but I didn't get to go to the grand opening. Boo-hoo.

I've always loved how they did the new Mad Hatter Shop for the New Fantasyland and how they put "Alice in Wonderland", "Mad Tea Party" and the "Mad Hatter Shop" all together in a sub-theme area within Fantasyland.

One of the slogans I remember for the reopening of Alice Alice in Wonderland in 1984 went something like "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date" and then they mention how the Alice attraction opened later after the opening of Disneyland and again was late for the opening of the new Fantasyland. It went something like that.

I really love the "A New Alice in Wonderland in 1984" sign photo. It really is a rare image and I do remember seeing it.

In my mind, 1984 was the last true year of classic Disneyland as the following year Eisner's influence would be felt with Videopolis and outside IPs creeping in.

As for the Sword in the Stone ceremony, its final performance was in 2006 according to two sources I looked up (one of them being Wikipedia).

Lots of great pics here which bring up a lot of fond memories of Disneyland for me. Thanks for another great post, TokyoMagic!

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I like that little Alice themed section of Fantasyland, too. The main thing that I did not like about the New Fantasyland, was that they didn't keep Captain Hook's Pirate Ship and Skull Rock. If the ship really had wood rot or termites or whatever they were claiming at that time, then I think it should have been rebuilt, right where it had always sat, since opening day. I've said this before on other blogs, but I think Dumbo should have been moved elsewhere, like in the Small World Meadow area, just to the left of It's A Small World.

Thanks for the info on The Sword in the Stone ceremony. I have pics of it from December of 2006, so I guess I saw it at the very end of it's run.

I'm glad that you enjoyed this post. I have another post planned for the future, that will be a follow up to this one and include some New Fantasyland souvenir items and also the new parade that was created specifically for the reopening of the land, "Flights of Fantasy."

Major Pepperidge said...

I sure remember the hubbub about the New Fantasyland; I saved some of the same publicity materials, such as that L.A. Times insert (I wonder where I put that). The renderings of the much more detailed buildings had me pretty excited, though I was probably unaware of the fact that Skull Rock and the Pirate Ship would be gone.

It’s funny about the “Grand Opening”, and then the other Grand Opening for the press. And cool that you have the pinback button and that plastic Press badge! I’ve never seen one of those before.

If it wasn’t for some of the Disneyland photo bloggers, we would probably just believe that the drawbridge hadn’t been raised/lowered since July 17th, 1955.

Melody Rogers! I used to love her. Wonder where she went?

That sign for the new Alice in Wonderland is great, another thing I’ve never seen before. The “Sword in the Stone” ceremony was fun, I was once chosen to be the adult chump who wasn’t worthy. The little girl who pulled the sword from the stone received a sweet medal on a ribbon, while I got nothin’.

It’s cool that you got to see Annette at the park! Even if the photo is grainy, you can sort of tell it’s her.

Fun post!

Chuck said...

I was living in Ohio when all of this happened and missed the media blitz you all experienced. I didn't learn about it until late '84.

Our English class was in the school library, doing research for a paper, and we had been explicitly warned by our teacher not to talk. A friend of mine kept talking, and even after several generalized warnings to the class from the teacher he was still not catching a clue.

Finally, in exasperation, I whispered "Craig, will you please shut up before we all get in trouble?!" without realizing that Mrs MacCaulay was looking straight at me when I said it. BAM! Instant detention...for me. Only one I ever got in high school. For trying to help someone else follow the rules.

Craig felt pretty bad about it (although not, apparently, bad enough to turn himself in to the properly instituted authorities), and at the end of class he handed me something to "keep me company in detention." I looked down and found myself holding the 1983 and 1984 Walt Disney Productions Annual Reports.

I spent my hour-long, after-school incarceration utterly engrossed in reading about the changes that were happening at a Park I hadn't visited since 1976, and the New Fantasyland seemed totally awesome (although I don't think I was using that expression yet). I wasn't aware of what we'd lost, but what we got is still pretty cool.

Looking through the LA Times insert, I find it ironic that one of the photos enticing us to visit the New Fantasyland was taken aboard Capt Hook's galleon.

TM!, thanks for posting this, and I'm looking forward to your follow-up post. Are you actually in the 2 On the Town video segment you posted?

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I also wonder what happened to Melody Rogers! Steve Edwards has certainly stuck around on TV ever since then!

That's great that you were picked for the Sword and the Stone ceremony! Too bad they didn't give the adult men something for their participation. I wonder if those medals turn up very often on ebay? I think in later years, they cheapened out and just gave the kids a pinback button with the young Arthur/Wart on it.

I really liked that "Alice" sign. I'm glad I thought to take a picture of it, but I wish I had a better camera at the time. I bought my first 35mm camera with a built-in flash, two years later, but in 1983, I was still using an Instamatic camera with crummy 110 film! And for that Annette photo, I would have needed a flash bar or a "Flip Flash" for that particular camera, and I didn't have one with me. :-(

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I was wondering if anyone would catch that photo of Captain Hook and Peter Pan on the Fantasyland Pirate Ship in that advertisement! I find that either really nervy of them, or else completely stupid. I wonder if the person that designed that flyer, knew that the ship had been destroyed and would not be a part of the New Fantasyland? Maybe they just didn't care?

Wow, I had something similar happen to me in the fourth grade. While taking a math quiz, the girl next to me was repeatedly asking to use the eraser on my pencil, because hers was worn down to nothing. It was made very clear that there was not to be any talking during these quizzes, but because she wouldn't stop pestering me, I tried to tell her that she was going to get us both in trouble. Well, our witch of a teacher....seriously, the meanest teacher I ever had in all my years of school, came over and took both of our quizzes from us and tore them up, very over-dramatically in front of the entire class. I really should have spoken up and said something, but I didn't. Well, she got hers! She ended up needing surgery about halfway into the school year, so for the rest of the year, we had a permanent substitute teacher, who was one of the nicest teachers I have ever had!

And yes, I am in the "2 On The Town" video! I'm behind Steve Edwards and Melody Rogers, every single time they show them within that first minute of footage. I also found myself in two different newscasts that have been posted on YouTube. One is for Channel 2, with Dave Lopez reporting and the other is Channel 4, with Bonnie Haines reporting. I should have included this video clip in the post, because before they show the news coverage from various channels (which unfortunately is kind of "choppy"), they show almost the entire opening ceremony for the re-dedication of Fantasyland:

Stefano said...

Thanks TokyoMagic!, another fantastic look back, and a surprising memory prodder. About a month before New Fantasyland opened, there was some promotion involving a game with illustrated cards that could be torn out and used Monopoly-style. People sitting in a Teacup was not new, but one card showed the giant confectionary on Pleasure Island, for the Pinocchio ride. I can't recall the source of this...the LA Times?... A cereal box?!

I watched that 2 on the Town special with my sister; we were Disneyland fans from toddler age and loved the original plywood and carnival tent Fantasyland, but the preview made us gleeful at the level of detail and finish displayed. Some things I remember: Melody said the Snow White ride broke down when they were halfway through, and they walked back; Annette was interviewed with Bobby Burgess and they reminisced about the Mickey Mouse Club Circus, "located where the Submarines are now"; Burgess seemed sincere when he said something on the order of Disneyland being a second home for him. It is fun to see an unredacted TokyoMagic! in the clip; this is like that scene in "Jaws" with Peter Benchley as a TV reporter on the beach, the crowd behind him in "Look Ma I'm on television!" mode.

I agree with K. Martinez: this is the final flowering of classic Disneyland. It remains impressive that they got it built so quickly--the winter of 1982-83 was a hellacious El Nino season, with So Cal getting over 30 inches of rain. New Fantasyland has now lasted 8-9 years longer than the original did; loss of the pirate ship aside, it was done right and truly built to last. I missed the parade that summer of '83, and look forward to your pictures.

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, that Monopoly-type game sounds interesting. I don't remember seeing it. I'm assuming the top prize was something like a trip to Disneyland?

I'm glad that you remember some of the other parts of that live "2 On The Town" special. Again, I wish I had the whole thing! But I am thankful for the little bit of it that I do have! And gee, I bet Disney did not like Melody Rogers revealing that a ride broke down and that they had to walk off of it! You know how they are about "bad press."

"Unredacted TokyoMagic!" Ha, ha! I like that!

You just jogged my memory about the weather that winter. It really was bad! I remember the winter storms causing super high and super strong waves that took out parts of the Redondo Beach Pier, and also took out some of the huge rocks in the breakwater.

Anonymous said...

Wow, another well-researched and illustrated post.

Thank you, Tokyo.

I missed all of this and didn't see it until it was almost 10 years old.

I generally approved of the New Fantasyland, and especially the Alice department. I only wish the tuna clipper and the grotto had been saved. I remember looking around bewildered, wondering where it had gone. I suppose they put Dumbo where he is to maintain the Casey Jr. connection.

I'm not sure whether to believe the stories about wood rot, etc. The fact that there was a huge new food service facility designed into the new land, and that the tuna bar was low capacity and suffered from the same logistic food delivery and trash removal problems as the canteen in Ft. Wilderness means that there were operational drivers to removing the pirate ship. But that doesn't mean I don't miss it terribly.

Thanks for this splendid post.


TokyoMagic! said...

JG, thank you! I suppose Fantasyland was overdue for a larger capacity restaurant, but it seems like the Pirate Ship could have been kept as some kind of snack bar, or maybe even turned into a shop. Disney seems to think that there can never be enough shops in their parks!

If they had moved Dumbo over to the meadow area near It's A Small World, they could have moved the entrance to Casey Jr. over there as well. After all, that was the plan for both Dumbo and Casey Jr. when that entire meadow area was going to be developed into a new land called, "Dumbo Circus." Even though they had already canceled the plans for an entire land themed to the circus and Dumbo, they could have made a mini-Dumbo area over there, like they did with "Alice" and the Mad Tea Party, and at the same time, not had to sacrifice the Fantasyland Pirate Ship for it. :-(

Anonymous said...

They wanted to keep it & move it but it was too deteriorated.

Anonymous said...

My brother was a Fantasia broom in the Flights of Fantasy parade, so my family got to go to the soft opening night for cast only. The only land that was open was Fantasyland, and while they had the sky buckets running, they didn’t stop in Tomorrowland, just rolled through back to the FL tower.
The Village Haus was originally sponsored by Sun Giant raisins, which meant there were big bowls full of fun sized boxes of raisins all over for the taking. Since it was a cast party, security was not as tight as usual and a LOT of those raisins ended up raining down from the Sky Buckets that night, LOL.

TokyoMagic! said...

Anonymous, that's cool that your brother was a "broom" in the parade!

I remember when the Village Haus (originally called the Village Inn) was sponsored by Sun Giant. I seem to remember there being a salad on the menu, that came with nuts or raisins, or both, sprinkled on it. And that's too, too funny about the employees throwing raisins from the Skyway gondolas!