The year was 1983 when, finally, Disneyland's brand new sparkling Fantasyland opened to a very excited public. With much fanfare, the drawbridge to the castle was lifted and lowered for the first time since the park's opening in 1955.
It was quite a day. I avoided the exact re-opening but visited shortly afterwards, being quite excited at the transformation. Gone were the quickly (and cheaply) built tournament tent surroundings. In its place was an elegant recreation of a European village. Under the heartfelt leadership of Imagineer Tony Baxter, the original Magic Kingdom had finally received the kind of Fantasyland Walt Disney always intended but couldn't afford.
In addition to all the changes, a brand new attraction appeared: Pinocchio's Daring Journey, a dark ride to match all the others found around the castle. It joined an impressive line-up beginning with the beloved Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventures, and Alice in Wonderland. (Want to see a nice little article on the transformation of Fantasyland? Go to Imagineering Disney. It's chock full of some great before and after photos!)
The man himself with a marionette of Pinocchio.
For some reason, this new dark ride, recently installed in Tokyo Disneyland months earlier, never became a fan favorite. In spite of it being a masterpiece as a film, the transition to dark ride never caught on with park guests as did its dark ride predecessors. Thirty plus years later, the attraction seems to have a very short queue, even on the very busiest of days. Quite the shame, as I think this attraction has it all: a compelling story with dark and light elements, a variety of scenery, wonderful characters, and great special effects. Most of all, the attraction boasts music that has stood the test of time. It may be too much of a morality tale, but it's a solid attraction in its own right. Truly an undiscovered gem of the California park.
(Art and photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)