Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 2): Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through

This is one of the attractions that has been open for a number of years, but is a very new experience for me due to the limited number of visits I am actually able to make to sunny Southern California. The attraction re-opened after a number of years of closure in late 2008, but the history of the attraction has already been covered in my review of the Sleeping Beauty film. I would highly suggest you re-read that article as there is going to be some names and terms that were explained in that article that are used here.

What was not talked about regarding the history of the attraction was what brought upon the return of the walk-through. While the Disney company was preparing the 50th anniversary home-video release of Sleeping Beauty, they asked Imagineering if there had been any Sleeping Beauty attractions in the parks, as they wanted to have a special feature like the fan-favourite special feature on the Little Mermaid DVD that showed a virtual ride through of a planned Little Mermaid dark ride. Tony Baxter mentioned the walk-through and a large number of people at both Imagineering and Walt Disney Home Entertainment were immensely surprised that the attraction had even existed. The group decided to go down to Disneyland and see if the attraction was still intact despite the closed doors and to their great surprise, the scenes were still there (albeit weathered by time) in their 1977 versions. The decision was brought down to re-open the attraction, but in it’s 1957 version, as that was to be the version featured on the DVD, and to Imagineering’s great surprise, many of the 1957 scenes were still in the attraction, just covered up by the newer ones.

The attraction can best be described as “charming.” It’s one of those attractions that many guests would probably skip over on their visit for a larger attraction if they didn’t have enough time, but it’s honestly their loss as the attraction has a large amount of polish for it’s small size. The story is told through a combination of story-books, little vignettes, music, and some exceedingly clever yet simple special effects. Some of those effects are the kind of things where people would look at them and think that they are something much more advanced, like the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion, but would be very surprised to find out how the effects were made. The best effect in the entire attraction is Maleficent’s transformation into the fire-breathing dragon. It looks like it is a projection effect, but the whole effect moves so fluidly from her transforming in the very top and back of the scene to her breathing fire and setting the very front of the scene “on fire” that it is quite amazing. The vignettes look like they are ripped right from the movie stylistically, but they have a surprising amount of depth in them with some very exaggerated forced perspective when needed and design based around the same properties as the multi-plane camera. The scenes are based off of the original Eyvind Earl and Ken Anderson drawings for the original version of the attraction, but re-created and expanded. The Imagineers added more scenes that were missing from the 1957 original version to make a more full version of the story.

The attraction is one that is not easy for some people to navigate, so Imagineering took one of the smaller shops in Fantasyland and converted it into a very small theatre that shows an HD virtual walk-through of the attraction with surround sound for those people who can’t traverse the stairs up and through the castle. It has been rumoured that the reason that the attraction was closed in the first place was because it couldn’t follow meet the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. This was something that Disney definitely had to meet if the attraction were to ever re-open.

While it is nice that there is a Sleeping Beauty attraction out there in the world, I really wish that Imagineering would just go and make a dark ride based off of the movie. The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough is a very good A-Ticket attraction, and one of the most amusing attractions that I saw at Disneyland, but I feel like Imagineering could do much more with the Sleeping Beauty property in the parks.

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