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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Peter Pan’s Flight



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

PETER PAN’S FLIGHT IN MAGIC KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

Peter Pan’s Flight was an opening day attraction at Disneyland in 1955, and it became one of the company’s most popular and beloved attractions, later appearing in five Disney theme parks worldwide. A version did not open on opening day at Walt Disney World but rather two days later, and featured some significant differences from the California version.

It does use the same overhead monorail track system that lifts miniature pirate ships up into the air for an almost three minute dark ride journey through the story of Disney’s animated feature Peter Pan (1953). (That monorail track system is the same mechanics used in some warehouses to move large cargo from one area to another.)

Guests fly out of the Darling nursery (some of the toy blocks spell out “Disney” and “Peter Pan”) into the night sky of London, with Big Ben and the Tower Bridge down below. Then it is off to Never Land and finally to Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger pirate ship where the pirate captain is battling with Peter Pan who is trying to save the Darling family and the Lost Boys.

The original concept for the Disneyland Fantasyland dark rides was that the guests were supposed to imagine themselves as the main character, so no Snow White figure appeared in her attraction, and no Peter Pan in Peter Pan’s Flight. The Walt Disney World version revised that concept that had confused guests for years by adding figures of the name characters.

Imagineers Bill Justice and Bill Martin corrected other things as well, since the Disneyland version lacked the Indians, Lost Boys and pirates on the ride. The Walt Disney World formatting was very similar to Disneyland’s ride with some upgraded effects and additions. One of the most iconic scenes from the Disney animated film was also included on Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom, Captain Hook balanced precariously over the jaws of the hungry crocodile.

Some of these changes were later added to the Disneyland attraction in 1983.

To make the moving cars in the city of London seem like their headlights are approaching and receding, progressively larger dots of luminescent paint was used on a constantly moving bicycle chain.

The clouds floating over London were originally just plastic bags. The bubbling volcano lava was created using aluminum foil and creative lighting that was an Imagineer Yale Gracey innovation later used in the Pirates of the Caribbean.

The highest point in the attraction is seventeen feet, but it appears much higher thanks to the forced perspective of the buildings below.

Because of its high popularity and low ride capacity with usually only two people on a ship, the attraction usually featured the highest wait times, running up to an hour and a half. To help alleviate some of that frustration, in 2014 the restrooms next to the attraction were removed and replaced with an interactive queue.

The new standby queue line has guests weave through a winding hallway of the Darling family home with paintings depicting scenes from the film and then moving into the children’s nursery. It is here where guests can start to track Tinker Bell’s pixie dust light as she flies around and creates mischief with physical objects like a lamp, a chest, a globe and many more.

Guests get a chance to interact with shadow butterflies and shadow bells that actually ring when touched in addition to the lively shadow of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell popping up, among other surprises in the queue line.

A calendar in the queue has the date December 27, 1904 circled, a reference to the day when the original Peter Pan play by James Barrie commenced performances in London.

The attraction captures a sense of nostalgia and magic missing in some more recent rides.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disneyland Historical Highlights!

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