Walt Disney once likened his Disneyland® Park to a piece of clay—something he could continuously reshape and reimagine.
Ever since the park opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955, the great Disney minds have kept this vision alive. Disneyland® Park is constantly in flux, with attractions undergoing elaborate revamps, refreshes and re-themes. The Swiss Family Robinson was moved out of the treehouse to make room for Tarzan. The Submarine Voyage was reworked to honor the wildly popular film Finding Nemo. Captain Jack Sparrow was added to Pirates of the Caribbean. These changes offer visitors new surprises and give them more reason to keep coming back.
Here’s a look at how four classic Disneyland® Park attractions have evolved over the years.
1. Tarzan’s Treehouse™
Inspired by the film about the family castaway on a tropical island, the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House opened in Adventureland in 1962. Guests could climb high into the branches of the artificial tree and walk through re-creations of the bedrooms and living spaces depicted in the movie. The Robinsons were evicted in 1999 by Tarzan, which coincided with the release of the film about a boy raised in the jungle by gorillas. The attraction was refurbished and remodeled with a new theme, more than 6,000 vinyl leaves were replaced, and a suspension bridge entrance was added. A tribute to the former residents remains: “Swisskapolka” can be heard playing on the vintage gramophone.
2. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
This attraction gave guests a glimpse of life under the sea with animatronics when it opened in 1959 in Tomorrowland. Inspired by the 1958 voyage to the North Pole by the USS Nautilus nuclear submarine, a large part of the original ride simulated life under the Arctic Ocean’s polar ice caps. In summers between 1965 and 1967, the waters turned tropical—women in mermaid costumes swam around the submarine windows. The underwater fun stopped in 1998 when the ride closed. It reopened in 2007 as Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, with updated animatronics as well as digital projections that bring to life scenes from the Disney•Pixar animated film.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean
The original 1967 New Orleans Square ride told the story of a band of wily pirates and their troubles and exploits, and it featured the song “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me),” written by George Burns, who’s also known for co-writing the “Ballad of Davy Crocket.” The attraction was wildly popular and inspired Disney to create the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, which stars Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Ever since the first film hit theaters in 2003, Disney has made movie-related additions. At the beginning of the ride, the dreaded pirate Blackbeard, his face projected onto a waterfall, warns guests of the dangers ahead, and Captain Sparrow pops up throughout in unexpected places.
4. Matterhorn Bobsleds
Walt Disney became enamored with the real Matterhorn in Switzerland while filming Third Man on the Mountain, and he decided to use a mound of dirt piled adjacent to Sleeping Beauty Castle to build this snowy mountain, which houses a roller coaster. The ride, which debuted in 1959, was the first coaster to use a tubular track. The infamous Abominable Snowman, who roars at visitors as they speed by, was added in 1978, and the glowing ice crystals became a highlight in 1994. The ride underwent a major overhaul in 2012, when comfier bobsleds were installed and the peak was repainted with more realistic-looking snow. In 2015, the snowman got a makeover to look more menacing, but his original red eyes remain.
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