Peter Pan’s Flight is a rail-suspended dark attraction. Its story, music, staging, and artwork are based on Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, the 1953 animated film version of J. M. Barrie’s iconic Peter Pan story. It is also one of the few attractions that was operational on Disneyland’s opening day in 1955, despite the fact that the original version was completely remodeled in 1983. It may be found in five of the six Disney resorts, each with its own exterior, walk-through queue, and ride experience.
The initial version (1955-1982)
The first iteration of Peter Pan’s Flight debuted at Disneyland on July 1, 1955, on the park’s opening day. This version of the attraction was the shortest in length, with the fewest animated figurines and the most basic soundtrack. The queue line was mostly outside, and its exterior looked like a colorful medieval tournament tent with stripes and ornate shields. Guests boarded ride cars in front of a big, extravagant mural filled with characters and locations from the film on which the ride was based, as with contemporary opening-day Fantasyland dark rides Snow White and Her Adventures and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Peter Pan himself did not appear in the original ride (apart from a painting and a shadow on the nursery wall), nor did the Darling children, the Lost Boys, the mermaids, or the Indians (save for a captive Tiger Lily in the final scene).
The 1955 Peter Pan attraction established the fundamental three-act framework that most subsequent iterations of the ride have followed. Following a brief scene inside the Darling children’s nursery (about three-fifths the size it is today), guests sailed over the moonlit London skyline (much the same as it is today), the fantastical realm of Neverland (seen entirely from an aerial perspective, with no close-up vignettes or characters), and finally into the cavernous Skull Rock, where a sword-wielding Captain Hook ordered the bumbling Mr. Tick Tock the crocodile, staring closely at guests with his jaws gaping just before they fled the scene through a series of doors disguised as a waterfall and returned to the loading area, was the attraction’s final sight.
This basic version of the attraction was in operation until 1982, when it was closed as part of a massive remodeling of the New Fantasyland, which replaced nearly all of the area’s buildings and attractions with richer theming and new technology. In May 1983, a much improved version of Peter Pan’s Flight premiered, which is virtually the same one that exists today.
Expanded version (since 1983)
Guests fly over the rooftops of London as they leave the station but before entering the main ride facility. The updated version of the ride contains Audio-Animatronic renditions of the characters, similar to those found at Florida’s Magic Kingdom. Scenes from the Florida ride were introduced to Disneyland as part of the new redesign, including the pirate ship deck where Peter and Hook combat on the top of the ship’s bowsprit (at the Magic Kingdom, Peter and Hook duel on the ship’s mainsail). Few sequences are identical in the two versions, although they are quite similar.
On May 25, 1983, the new Disneyland ride debuted as part of New Fantasyland. After navigating the wait, tourists board a three-passenger miniature galleon suspended from a track on the ceiling overhead to simulate flying through the air. The ship departs the loading room and travels through the Darlings’ nursery, passing Nana the Saint Bernard dog nursemaid and some toy blocks that spell “D1SN3Y” when read backwards. Wendy, John, and Michael Darling are sleeping, and Peter Pan’s shadow may be seen on the wall.
Guests overhear Peter Pan exclaim, “Everyone, come on! Let’s get started!” The ship now sails out of the nursery window and over night London. Tinker Bell’s lights shine all around. Miniature replicas of some of London’s most iconic sights, including St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, and the River Thames, await guests below.
The flying ships next arrive at Neverland, passing “the second star to the right and straight on ’til morning,” where passengers can see the Indian town, a luminous volcano, a big octopus, three colored fish, The Lost Boys’ camp, Mermaid Lagoon, and Skull Rock. In addition to Peter and the Darlings, guests will meet some of Neverland’s most famous residents, including Princess Tiger Lily, Mr. Smee, Tick-Tock the Crocodile, and Peter’s arch-rival, Captain Hook.
The attraction was closed for renovations on February 2, 2015. It was supposed to reopen on May 21, 2015, but that date was later moved back to July 1, 2015. Wendy, John, and Michael animatronics now fly above John’s bed in the Nursery (before, John and Michael sat in John’s bed, with Wendy sitting on a chair next to them). In addition, new special effects were applied to the London and Neverland sections.
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