Midget Autopia Yesterland
Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
Get behind the steering wheel—either one—of a sporty two-seater.

Are you too small to drive an Autopia car or even a Junior Autopia car? If you’re around four years old, the answer is undoubtedly “yes.” Don’t worry. You’re not too small for a Midget Autopia car.

Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
Get ready to hit the road.

It’s the only Autopia where every car has two steering wheels. But Mom or Dad can’t sit next to you. This Autopia is for kids only. And while the other Autopias look like freeways, this one is more of a country road.

Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
The windshield is absolutely clear—because there’s no glass in it.
 
Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
A future California freeway driver feels the wind in his hair.
 
Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
Steering the car accurately is no more important here than in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
 
Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
This curve is a great photo opportunity for Dad and his 36-exposure roll of Kodachrome.

Now it’s your turn. Start by driving down a winding road. Head up and down a hill, through a tunnel, and finally right through a little yellow barn.

Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
Quick! Pose for a picture before you drive away.
 
Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
When there are two kids, there’s no arguing about who gets the steering wheel.
 
Photo of Midget Autopia at Disneyland
In the ride’s exciting climax, the barn doors swing open—just in time.
 

At Disneyland, the Midget Autopia made its debut in 1957. It was the third (and smallest) Autopia track, following the Tomorrowland Autopia (1955) and the Junior Autopia in Fantasyland (1956). The Midget Autopia was located right next to the Storybook Land Canal Boats, across from the Motor Boat Cruise.

The Midget Autopia was a favorite of Very Young guests. But it fell victim to another favorite of the Very Young—It’s a Small World. The Midget Autopia closed in April 1966 to make way for a wide new path up to It’s a Small World (June 1966). The once-popular Midget Autopia was paved over.

But that wasn’t the end of the Midget Autopia. Walt Disney donated the ride to his boyhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri, where it was installed in a park named in his honor. For several years, the former Disneyland attraction operated as a ride for the children of Marceline. Unfortunately, the cars were too difficult and expensive to maintain.

You can still see a Midget Autopia car in Marceline. An original car is on display in the town’s Walt Disney Hometown Museum. The museum is open daily (except Monday) from April through October in the town’s former Santa Fe railroad depot—an appropriate place to honor lifelong train buff Walt Disney.

What happened to the other two Autopias? The Junior Autopia closed in 1958, and reopened in 1959 as the expanded Fantasyland Autopia. The Tomorrowland Autopia and the Fantasyland Autopia operated until 1999, when work began to combine the tracks into a single attraction. In 2000, the redesigned attraction opened as the “Autopia, presented by Chevron,” with a new fleet of cleverly designed cars.

If you look carefully while you’re driving your Chevron Autopia car, you’ll see a bronzed Midget Autopia car on a pedestal at the side of the track. This “statue” is a tribute to the Chevron Autopia’s long-gone relative. It’s an actual car that once operated in Fantasyland and Marceline.

For more than five decades, the Autopia rides have given many future Southern California freeway drivers their first experience behind the steering wheel.


Disneyland used “midget” as an adjective for a ride with small cars, not to refer to people of short stature. But it’s still worth noting that the term “midget” is now viewed differently than back when Disneyland’s Midget Autopia was in operation. A FAQ at the website of the Little People of America explains why the term is offensive:

Q: What is a midget?
A: In some circles, a midget is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the “freak show” era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today.
Such terms as dwarf, little person, LP, and person of short stature are all acceptable, but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label.

On July 5, 2009, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the Little People of America were calling on the Federal Communications Commission to ban the use of the word “midget” on broadcast TV because the word is just as offensive as racial slurs.

At least Disneyland doesn’t have to worry about criticism over the attraction name. The Midget Autopia has been gone for more than 40 years.


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© 1996-2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated March 28, 2014

Photo of pale yellow Midget Autopia car with future curator of Yesterland: Helmut Weiss, 1958.
Photo of Midget Autopia loading area: Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of boy “driving” away from Midget Autopia loading area: Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of boy driving a pale yellow Midget Autopia car: Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Midget Autopia winding road with blue car: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Midget Autopia winding road with red car: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of two boys posing in black Midget Autopia car: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of two boys “driving” black Midget Autopia car: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Midget Autopia yellow barn: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.