Theme Park Ranger
11:10 AM EDT, September 29, 2011
Forty years have passed since the first theme-park guests walked up Main Street U.S.A. toward Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
A lot has changed since Oct. 1, 1971, not the least of it being the cost of a ticket. Single-day admission on day one was less than four bucks. If you want to go old-school Disney as the theme park turns middle age, there are still attractions around that date back to opening day. Some have experienced alterations, but who doesn't over four decades?
Here's a guide to five Magic Kingdom classics:
Tomorrowland Speedway — originally known as Grand Prix Raceway — has been a dreamland to kids, a place where they finally are allowed to put pedal to medal. Are youngsters still peeved to discover that they're restricted to riding the rail and that you can't exactly speed around the speedway?
In my youth, it was always loud, and it felt dangerous when cast members would stand and accelerate the little cars back to the station. And there was always the fear of being bumped from behind.
Today, I have enough traffic on I-4, and the fuel smell drives me away, even though it's a prime people-watching spot.
Out on a limb
Much more serene is the Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland. This giant attraction blends in with its surroundings so well that if you're easily distracted by Dole Whips, you could walk right by it without notice.
As a kid, I didn't appreciate the tree. I mean, nothing happened there. It was a bunch of stairs and furniture and living spaces that didn't seem all that inviting. And how did they get that organ way up there?
As an adult, I appreciate the tranquility. It may not be Pandora, but it is a place I can imagine, a place without text messaging and Foursquare check-ins. (There's a mayor of the Swiss Family Treehouse. Sigh.)
Hail to the chiefs
Many of the original 1971 attractions would be considered low-tech, but very ambitious for its time was the Hall of Presidents, featuring dozens of animatronic leaders of the free world. The attraction also stood out because it was something that Disney World had that Disneyland did not.
The Hall is great for getting your patriotic juices flowing — and for escaping the endless summer.
Trunk on track
Like so many Disney rides, Dumbo the Flying Elephant goes up and down, round and round, and manages to draw big crowds without doing big tricks. In this case, I think the vehicles themselves are the draw because they're designed to look like the little big guy.
The aerial carousel currently has another plus: Riders can see over the construction wall into the area designated for the park's expansion of Fantasyland.
Dumbo eventually will be on the move as part of the expansion. There will be dueling Dumbo carousels and an interactive queue in the Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland.
That's Snow biz
We're approaching last call for Snow White's Scary Adventures. The dark ride, which features the hag more than the heroine, will be closed to make room for the princesses who formerly did meet-and-greets in the now-closed Mickey's Toontown Fair area. No closing date has been announced.
The ride is short and sweet, sort of like Dopey, who waves goodbye at ride's end.
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Characters, fireworksmark day
Disney World's 40th birthday party will be a relatively low-key affair on Saturday.
At 9:45 a.m. at the Magic Kingdom, a parade of Disney characters will work its way to Cinderella Castle for a ceremony with Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton. Folks who have been cast members for 40 years will participate, and a sing-along with the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet will be held.
An expanded edition of "Wishes" fireworks display will go off at 9 p.m.
In between, special 40th anniversary merchandise will be on sale and creators of limited-edition artwork will be on hand for autographs. One-day-only commemorative T-shirts will be sold.
Magic Kingdom hours will be 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturday.
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