A Photo Essay at
Yester World

Yesterland.com
Walt Disney World Then and Now
Magic Kingdom

Part 1: Liberty Square, Frontierland, and Adventureland

My first visit to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was in January 1983. EPCOT Center had just opened a few months earlier. The Magic Kingdom was the “old” park—more than 11 years old.

This year, the Magic Kingdom will turn 40. My most recent visit to the park was earlier this month. I went back to some of the same spots where I had taken pictures in 1983.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, February 25, 2011


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Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square with a Keel Boat (1983)

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Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square without a Keel Boat (2011)

The Haunted Mansion and the Mike Fink Keel Boats both opened on October 1, 1971, as part of the initial roster of Magic Kingdom attractions. Unlike the Southern Antebellum style of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, the Florida version was designed in Dutch Gothic Revival style, inspired by northeastern mansions.

The Mike Fink Keel Boats attraction in Florida closed permanently on April 29, 2001—around four years after its counterpart at Disneyland abruptly ended service after one boat capsized.

In addition to the missing boat, there are changes between 1983 and 2011:

  • Trees in front of and around the mansion now hide much of the building.
  • The banks of the River of America in front of the mansion have gone from a manicured look (with trimmed shrubs, weed control, and bark mulch) to a more natural look.
  • The queue canopy, in addition to being a different color, is now longer, attesting to the continued popularity of the classic attraction.
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Keel Boat dock in Liberty Square (1983)

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Former Keel Boat dock in Liberty Square (2011)

The dock for the Mike Fink Keel Boats is right next to the Haunted Mansion.

  • Because the dock is no longer in service, there’s a railing along the water.
  • The small structure with the blue roof is only in the 2011 picture.
  • The trees in background are much bigger.
  • The seagulls would not cooperate for the new picture, re-creating their positions in 1983—although there are still seagulls.
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Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square (1983)

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Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square (2011)

The Hall of Presidents is another attraction that goes back to the opening of the Magic Kingdom, when Richard Nixon was the President of the United States. Since than, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have joined the attraction.

  • This is a rare case when the trees in the new photo are smaller and fewer than in 1983 photo. Usually, it’s the other way around.
  • The biggest change to the exterior is the large blue marquee that now calls attention to the Hall of Presidents.
  • The railing on the roof (next to the “1787” pediment) is considerably different.
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Tom Sawyer Island suspension bridge (1983)

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Tom Sawyer Island suspension bridge (2011)

One big difference between Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom is that the Florida version consists of two separate islands connected by a suspension bridge. From Liberty Square, you can look between the two islands to the peaks of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

  • Not much has changed, aside from larger trees.
  • The color difference is probably dues more to lighting and the use of film for the old photo and a digital camera for the new photo than any actual change.
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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland (1983)

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland (2011)

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened at the Magic Kingdom in late 1980, a year after its Disneyland counterpart. The Florida version originally sat in an isolated corner of Frontierland.

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was temporarily closed at the time of the 1983 photo.
  • It was impossible to take the new photo from the same angle as the old one because of the construction of Splash Mountain in 1992.
  • The rock outcropping on the left of the new photo is part of Splash Mountain.
  • The canopy near the center of the new photo is for FASTPASS.
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Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland (1983)

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Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland (2011)

Pirates of the Caribbean opened in late 1973 at the Magic Kingdom. It’s a shorter ride with fewer scenes than its Disneyland counterpart—sort of a “best of” version of the ride. There is no New Orleans Square at the Magic Kingdom, so the Imagineers added Caribbean Plaza to Adventureland.

  • The palm tree planting in the 1983 photo looks great.
  • The big difference is the signage. Throughout the park, there’s been a tendency for signs to become larger and more prominent over time.
  • Does a freestanding ship’s mast, sail (with the attraction name), and crow’s nest contribute to immersive theme park design, or it essentially a billboard that detracts from the authenticity of the area?

Would you like to see more “Then & Now” photo essays? The following Yesterland articles are from 2009:

 

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© 2011-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 28, 2012.

Photographs of the Magic Kingdom in 1983: Werner Weiss and Dennis Derr, January 1983.
Photographs of the Magic Kingdom in 2011: Werner Weiss, February 2011.