The age old question, why is Peter Pan’s Flight’s always so crowded?
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We all wonder this every time we want to ride this attraction but if you think about it there are lots of reasons for this.
First of all, let’s consider that this ride has a pretty low ride capacity compared to other rides in the park. Take a look at The Haunted Mansion. The mansion’s ride capacity per hour is of 2400 guests, while Peter Pan’s Flight’s varies between 800 and 1000 guests. Also, the loading area, at least in Disneyland is one of the slowest ones in the park. Magic Kingdom’s Peter Pan has the same omnimover system as the Mansion, but it still has a lower capacity than other rides. But if this was the only reason for the crowds, then Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or Snow White’s Scary Adventures would have the same problem. They both have similar ride capacities and slow loading areas. So why don’t they have this problem?
Well, every Fantasyland ride is special. They are full of nostalgia because they represent some of our favorite Disney movies and they’re the original rides that Walt envisioned. But, while Snow White, Mr. Toad, Alice in Wonderland or Pinocchio are great at doing all this, they do it with the traditional limitations of a dark ride. They have a traditional car that takes us through many of the film’s scenes following a single rail on the floor, they have some twist and turns and noises and lights. And they are designed to show us some of the negative aspects of the story. We have a dark and scary forest and the Wicked Witch with the apple in Snow White, we have Stromboli and the Coachman trying to take us to the Salt Mines in Pinocchio, getting lost in the forest and almost being beheaded by the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and… who can forget going to Hell in Mr. Toads Wild Ride?
Peter Pan’s Flight is completely different. From the moment you get in the ship and it takes you flying across London you can feel the difference. Peter Pan’s Flight is full of open spaces and the floating motion has always helped it to stand out in comparison to the other Fantasyland rides. The ride is also the most positive of all of the other dark rides. Its full of fantasy and never makes us feel scared or a bit threatened like its neighbors.
We might wonder why this attraction was made so different from all other dark rides in Fantasyland and the answer probably lies in the love and special relationship that Walt had with this story.
It was 1913 and a small touring company brought a play called “Peter Pan” to Marceline, Missouri. A small boy watched the play and fell in love with this epic story, and how could he not if it was the perfect combination of fantasy and adventure. This little boy was Walt and since that moment he never forgot Peter Pan. In 1924 Walt saw a silent version of the story. The film contained many innovations and state of the art special effects which we all know Walt was a fan of so the love for the boy who never grew up became larger. And it was in the 1930s when Walt started to come up with the idea to make a Peter Pan movie. He knew that making an animated movie would be better because you could get away with lots of things and effects that were not possible in the live action versions of the story. (3:20 documental) So he created a masterpiece that became one of the most beloved films of all Disney fans.
So obviously Peter Pan had a sure place in Disneyland when Walt started to imagine Fantasyland. But creating Fantasyland dark rides was no easy task for the Imagineers. They had to design and create them within an almost impossible deadline. Some of the Imagineers that were tasked to do this were Herb Ryman, Marvin Davis, Bob Mattey, Claude Coats and Ken Anderson among others. And that’s not all, other Fantasyland rides were easier to achieve in a much quicker way. Many of the dark ride scenes are images painted directly on plywood flats that move as soon as the cart gets there. But not on Peter Pan’s Flight. Why? Well, because guests were to fly above and past such large visual elements as Skull Rock or Never Land island, and it was necessary to present them in three dimensions instead of the 2 dimensions that the plywood could give.