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Truly an enchanting place, spread gracefully like a miniature alpine village beneath the towers of Sleeping Beauty Castle, Fantasyland is the heart of the park. Fantasyland is the backbone of the Magic Mornings early-entry program, with nine rides open. If your group consists of older kids and adults, ride Peter Pan’s Flight first during the early-entry period, followed by Alice in Wonderland and Matterhorn Bobsleds. If you have younger children in your group, start with Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice in Wonderland and then ride Dumbo. Certain Fantasyland attractions close for fireworks and may not reopen until the fire marshal gives the all clear, as this Calgary dad discovered:

A significant number of Disneyland’s Fantasyland attractions close before fireworks, and of these, some reopen several minutes later while others remain closed for the night. We arrived at Fantasyland immediately after the fireworks and found very little open.


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Along with Main Street U.S.A., Fantasyland was probably the one area that was closest to Walt Disney’s heart. This is where he could bring his cartoons to life. He wanted to immerse his guests in the range of emotions that one would feel while watching one of his films. As you ride through the attractions you experience fantasy (Peter Pan's Flight), humor (Mr. Toad's Wild Ride), and drama (Snow White's Scary Adventures).

It begins with Sleeping Beauty Castle. Your first view of the castle is framed by the buildings along Main Street, which makes the structure more imposing and grander than it really is. The castle is also an excellent example of forced perspective, which is a visual tool used in making movies. Within Disneyland, forced perspective is used to make the buildings feel taller than they really are while making the environment more comfortable and intimate. The buildings are not full-scale reproductions of historic structures. Instead the perspective is forced because the first floor of a building is full scale, the second floor is smaller in scale, and the third level is even smaller. As the structure continues to rise, the materials continue to get smaller in scale. This visual trick is the reason why an adult has the sensation of returning to someplace from their childhood when everything looks smaller.

The castle is also one of the few four-sided structures in the park. Most buildings are what are known as a 'decorated shed' with a themed façade hiding an ordinary industrial building. The castle is a blend of Bavarian and French influences with a bit of Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle thrown in. Walt was about to review the model and at the last minute, Imagineer Herb Ryman looked at the model and felt that something wasn't right. So to the horror of his colleagues he took off the top and flipped it around. Walt walked in and loved it.

When Disneyland was first built, budget considerations forced many compromises. Fantasyland was not what Walt originally wanted but it was all he could afford. To remind his Imagineers of what he really had in mind, he had many of the building facades reproduced in miniature and placed along the banks of the Storybook Canal Boats.

The original Fantasyland sported Eyvind Earle-inspired tournament-style facades. In 1983, the area got a major overhaul. In the updated version, much of the architecture in the courtyard is based on the work of children's illustrator Gustaf Tenggren. Each of the facades represent the countries where the stories originated: Snow White lives in a Gothic Bavarian castle; Peter Pan flies through a timbered Tudor style setting; Mr. Toad careens through an English countryside manor. Pinocchio's village is a chalet that was meant to compliment the Swiss chalet style of the (now closed) Skyway platform, sometimes visible amongst the trees near the path that leads to Frontierland.

Fantasyland continues to the north toward the beautiful, iconic façade of it's a small world. This was a collaboration between the brilliant Mary Blair and Imagineer Rolly Crump. Crump said of Blair, "It was about children, the freedom of color, and that Walt had asked her to do it."

On the way to Tomorrowland you pass through Matterhorn Way, which combines heavy timber benches, Pine and Aspen trees, and Swiss Chalet architecture to create an immersive environment reminiscent of the village of Zermatt, Switzerland.

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Other Lands at Disneyland Park