/ Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

By Nick DeJohn

There are a several things a die-hard Disney fan has to do and visiting Disneyland is tops on the list.  Opening in 1955, Disneyland was and continues to be one of the crown jewels of theme park entertainment.  With Walt at the helm from day one, the park and hotel complex achieved enormous success and, as of 2009, is the second most visited theme park in the world (Take a wild guess what number one is).  Any Walt Disney World habitual has to go.

However, there are several reasons why some Walt Disney World regulars might not want to set out for the Happiest Place on Earth.  East Coasters might not want to bear the long and exhausting cross-country trip (the fastest way to get there is a 5 hour plane ride).  Others may not have the financial ability to do so.  And a few just simply don’t want to go!  Whatever the case, most of these people might have a fear of feeling out of place and confused/lost in the new territory that is Californian amusement.

But fear not!  Disneyland and Walt Disney World have very close connections to make regulars feel right at home.


Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are almost mirror reflections of each other.  It gets so similar in certain areas that some guests might not which park they’re in!  Both parks consist of at least seven themed lands (although these lands are not the same), both are relatively small, and the most popular park in their respective resort.  Yet there are a few differences between them.

Each park has guests starting their journey walking under the Main Street train station and enjoying the sights and sounds of Walt’s favorite land, Main Street U.S.A.  The designs of Main Street for both parks are exactly the same, but the restaurants and shops will vary.  The famed hub and spoke layout is present at the end of street, leading the park goers into the lands.  What stands at the end of Main Street for both parks are not exactly alike.

Sleeping Beauty Castle beckons the guests into the park in Disneyland.  The castle, which has a pink, gold, and light blue color scheme, is only 77 feet tall.  Compared to the majestic, white Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom (which rises an imposing 189 feet), it is fairly miniature in structure.  However, both serve useful backdrops for the excellent firework shows the two parks offer.

Disneyland and Magic Kingdom have six equivalent lands (Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Toontown) and lands that are unique to each respective park.  Disneyland features New Orleans Square; a French Quarter-inspired land which hosts two of the parks more popular attractions, the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Critter Country is also a land located in the back of the park.  This small part of Disneyland is themed to the forests of the Pacific Northwest and features the famous Splash Mountain (which, by the way, averages at least a forty-five minute wait).  Magic Kingdom only has one exclusive land not found in Disneyland, and that is Liberty Square.  Themed as Colonial America in the 1700s, it contains only three attractions, the admired Haunted Mansion among the select few.


Both coasts have no problem enjoying the frightening sights and sounds of the Haunted Mansion.  The popular dark ride is beloved by many ages, and although they are mostly similar, some differences are present.

The biggest difference is the appearance of the Mansions.  Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion resembles an antebellum Southern plantation while Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion is based on Dutch Gothic-designed manors located throughout the Hudson River Valley.  The immense changes in appearance for the mansions are heavily influenced by the lands they are in.  The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland rests on the edge of New Orleans square while the Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom stalks the tip of Liberty Square.  Modifications in exterior were necessary to fit the setting the Mansions were in, or else one or the other would look extremely silly.

Size constraints on Disneyland forced Imagineers to think outside the box.  They needed to find a way to transport all the guests underneath the existing Disneyland Railroad train tracks and into the show building where the ride was housed.  They cleverly invented a haunted stretching room which served as an elevator to move the park goers into the desired location.  After leaving the stretching room (which is identical to the Magic Kingdom version), guests must walk down a portrait corridor with haunted paintings and strange busts to reach their Doombuggies.  Magic Kingdom, which had the “blessing of size”, didn’t need an elevator or tunnel to take visitors to the show building, but the stretching room proved to be so popular they kept it.  After a re-spooking of the Haunted Mansion in 2007, the Walt Disney World patrons travel down this corridor not on foot, but by Doombuggy.

Floridian guests get to experience an extra scene in the Haunted Mansion.  After you leave the loading station, you will visit a haunted library and music room, where some grim grinning ghosts are causing a little mischief.  The 2007 re-haunting also added haunted Escher-stairs with ghostly footprints where the giant spiders used to be.  Your Doombuggy in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will take you to the endless hallway, where both rides become exactly the same.


Walt Disney World guests know the story of Pirate’s late inclusion to the Magic Kingdom attraction line-up in 1973.  Disneyland’s version of the popular Pirates of the Caribbean opened in 1967 in New Orleans Square.  While most of the latter portion of the ride is the same, the beginning of Pirates and the appearance of the exterior differ quite a bit from each park.

To fit with its New Orleans theme, Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean features an antebellum theme much like its New Orleans Square counterpart, the Haunted Mansion.  Its façade evokes 1850s New Orleans (with a 31-star flag to boot) and features a “Lafitte Landing” theme, with a overhead sign at the boat docks paying tribute to real pirate Jean Lafitte who fought alongside the U.S. Army in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.  Walt Disney World’s Pirates, on the other hand, must match its Adventureland setting.  It features a distinction blend of Spanish architecture (the façade was inspired by Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan) and jungle foliage to blend in with Adventureland.

Unlike the Haunted Mansion, both rides needed their distinctive drops to carry the guests under the railroad and into the main show-building housing the ride, however the drop height is different (Disneyland plunges guests down two drops while Walt Disney World’s single drop is shorter).

The beginnings of each ride are different as well, and in a reversal of roles compared to the Haunted Mansion, Disneyland’s Pirates has additional scenes.  Since the construction and planning of Pirates in California was not rushed to meet a demand from displeased guests, the designers (including Walt, which Disneyland’s Pirates would be the last attraction he personally worked on) put much more effort into the ride by including lengthy opening scenes.  Disneyland’s version opens with a quiet, serene Blue Bayou scene with peaceful banjo music, dark lighting, and a view of guests enjoying their meals at the Blue Bayou Restaurant.  The California version also includes a Grotto of Lost Souls, a nicely decorated scene of a treasure room full of unfortunate pirates guarding their loot for all eternity.  Walt Disney World’s Pirates, unfortunately, doesn’t give guests these unique experiences due to time and space restraints.  But at least we get to travel down the portrait corridor on Doombuggy.


Disneyland boasts more overall attractions than Walt Disney World.  This is clearly evident in Fantasyland, where dark rides like Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure, Alice in Wonderland, and (yes, they still have it) Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride are prominent.  Another high-flying attraction that surely cannot be missed is the majestic Matterhorn Bobsleds, a thundering and rumbling roller coaster that takes guests twirling through the majestic Matterhorn mountain.  Of course, they have to avoid the dreaded Yeti along the way (yes, doesn’t this attraction sound familiar?).  Fantasyland also offers quiet and peaceful rides like Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train along with Magic Kingdom mainstay’s Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and of course, it’s a small world.

Another Magic Kingdom Fantasyland attraction will be found in Disneyland, but in a different section of the park.  The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh occupies one of the top corners of the park in Critter Country, a small land dedicated to the animals and creatures.  Critter Country features Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, another ride that was formerly operated at Walt Disney World.  The attraction is a free-floating canoe ride along the Rivers of America, and is the only guest controlled ride in Disneyland.

Tomorrowland features attractions that won’t be found in the Magic Kingdom, although may be found in other places in Walt Disney World.  Innoventions, the fun and creative look into the future of home living, is found in the corner of Tomorrowland.  Walt Disney World guests can find Innoventions in Epcot.  Star Tours is also included in Tomorrowland.  The same show can be found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Caption EO, the 3-D show starring the late Michael Jackson made a return to Disneyland where it replaced Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (which can still be found in Future World at Epcot in Walt Disney World), but as a limited engagement.  An exclusive attraction that once sailed in the Magic Kingdom is a highlight to Disneyland, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.  Replacing the original Submarine Voyage (or as Walt Disney World old-timers might remember as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage), the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage takes guests on a trip under the sea in search of Nemo and through obstacles like hungry sharks and pesky fish.  Sound familiar as well?  The plot is very similar to The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride at Epcot where guests board “clamobiles” and embark on a journey to find the popular clown fish.  Another feature Disneyland’s Tomorrowland includes is a station for Disneyland’s Monorail, which can take guests inside and outside the park whenever they want.  While monorails cannot bring guests into the park at Walt Disney World, the Walt Disney World Monorail does travel through the heart of Epcot.


While we know Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom contain a boatload more original attractions than Disneyland and its sister park California Adventure can claim, the Magic Kingdom boasts original rides of its own compared to its California counterpart.  Among the attractions we can brag about are the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) in Adventure.  The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) features an enhanced script of the innovative Enchanted Tiki Room located in Disneyland, with humorous characters like Zazu and Iago stealing the show.

Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland includes exclusive rides Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor and Stitch’s Great Escape, along with the popular Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  The Magic Kingdom also holds a timeless classic that Disneyland doesn’t, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.  Actually, Disneyland used to show Carousel of Progress before it shut down in 1973 and was moved to Florida in 1975, where the Audio-Animatronics adventure has been going strong since.

Another attraction that used to be shown at Disneyland was the Country Bear Jamboree.  Original housed in Critter Country, the Country Bear Jamboree shut down in 2001 to make room for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Fortunately, the Country Bear Jamboree has been entertaining Walt Disney World guests in Frontierland since opening day of the Magic Kingdom in 1971.  Although Disneyland guests enjoyed Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and all of his Abey goodness, Walt Disney World guests experienced something better… all 44 presidents!  Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square is home to Hall of Presidents, a hidden treasure since opening day.  And when the new Fantasyland expansion is finally finished, it will add a smorgasbord of attractions, including a Little Mermaid dark ride.


So all in all, Disneyland and Walt Disney World are quite similar both in structure and in atmosphere.  Guests on the East Coast should never feel homesick when touring the original Happiest Place on Earth.

Share YOUR comments below about the two parks, their similarities and differences, and which is your favorite and why



8 thoughts on “It IS a Small World After All – How Close Similarities Make Walt Disney World Regulars Feel Right at Home in Disneyland”

  1. Greg says:

    Lou, can we honestly brag about the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)? 😉

    I visited DLR for the first time last year and loved the exterior/que areas of Haunted Mansion. Have to admit that I preferred most of the DLR versions of the “classic” rides over their WDW counterparts as well!

  2. mikeythethumb says:

    Very educational Lou!

    Completely unexpectedly, I’ve been lucky enough to get to visit THREE Disney Parks in a single year this year! WDW in May (where I proposed to my now fiancee), Disneyland Paris in Aug (for the first time) and Disneyland CA coming up in Nov (also for the first time).

    From what I’ve read here today, Disneyland Paris seems to be modeled much more after Disneyland CA than it is after the Magic Kingdom in FL. It was really cool to ride a longer Pirates with more (and steeper) drops and no Johnny Depp, Phantom Manor (Paris’ Haunted Mansion) with bride animatronics peppered throughout the entire ride for (what I felt) was a more cohesive narrative, the Pinnochio ride, etc.

    It would be great to see an article like this that crossreferences the differences/similarities of all 5 parks!

    – Mikey

  3. Lou Mongello says:

    When I went to Disneyland for the first time as an adult two years ago (See show # 53), I was amazed at how similar, yet different the two parks are. I found Disneyland to be charming, quaint, yet exciting because all of the things I thought I was expecting were very different, and I mean that in the best possible way! I laughed out loud as I found myself looking for a map, as lands, attractions and stores weren’t where I thought they would be, based upon my experiences in Walt Disney World. For SO many reasons, I think every Walt Disney World fan needs to visit Disneyland!

  4. Jason says:

    I visited disneyland for the first time in 2008, after 27.5 years of disney world trips. I was 27 at the time. Great piece. I would also include the Indy ride in Disneyland (one of the top ten attractions/rides in all of Disney parks) and the Roger Rabbit Toon Spin. I loved Who Framed RR and reminance on the late 80’s and early 90’s when iit dominated Disney’e MGM Studios. So seeing Roger, Benny, and the Weasels (who are also in mr. Toad) was a treat. BTW, when I first didn’t find Toon Spin in fantasy land i was afraid that it had been closed.

  5. I’m not a fan of Disneyland but I do think of visiting the place sometimes. I am a bit curious why people really love to go there. Even my nephews and niece really love it. I really don’t know why.

  6. Nick says:

    Thanks for the feedback guys, glad you enjoyed it.

    Mikey – there could be a possible article about the similarities and differences between all 5 parks. It would be a big piece but well worth it.

    Port Clinton Docks – The reason I like it is for the nostalgic feel. Disneyland is the original king of theme parks… everything feels antique and full of history. When you walk down Main Street U.S.A., you can’t help but think that Walt Disney walked down that same red brick path too. Walt Disney never set foot in the Magic Kingdom.

  7. Cara says:

    I’m visiting Disneyland for the first in a couple of weeks and can’t wait to see the similarities/differences for myself. I’m especially excited to finally get to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Indiana Jones ride and being that Halloween Season will be underway, the Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy overlays.

  8. Lisa Ernst says:

    I went to Disneyland back in 2002, when I was 12. I have to say that while i obviously enjoyed myself, i didnt really appreciate where i was or what i was doing. Now, after 17 trips to WDW, we’re going back to Disneyland this coming March. I’ll be 21, so i think that i will be much more in tune with my surroundings, and Ill be able to appreciate it a lot more. Im soooo excited to ride all of the classics and experience the differences (again). And this time, my brother will be with us. He will be 6 almost 7 when we go, and he LOVES the classics, so im really excited to get to experience them with him for the first time. Hes super excited to ride Space Mountain for the first time!
    I have to agree with Lou. I think its definitely necessary for every WDW fan to visit Disneyland at least once in their lives….its a great learning experience!