By Erik Johnson
The expansion to the northeast corner of the Magic Kingdom at WDW in 1988 was popular. Very popular. Mickey’s Birthdayland, built to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday, needed to become a permanent land. In short order, Disney built Mickey’s Starland to expand the area and provide more attractions.
As time rolled on, Disney World guests wanted still more. Mickey’s Starland closed to make way for Mickey’s Toontown Fair. In 1996, this new land opened in time for the Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary. The theme of a cartoony fairground worked in tandem with the Toontown that opened in Disneyland. But yet again, we needed a bit more on the west coast. What else, Disney? What other land have you yet to build for our entertainment?
It seems that the time was ripe to combine a place to meet Mickey with the theme of Dumbo. A circus! Themed to the style of Dumbo’s circus, we enter a corner of the new Fantasyland that evokes a completely different feel. Colors swirl. Peanuts cover the ground. Somewhere, a ringmaster in a giant top hat coerces you inside.
The Storybook Circus of the Magic Kingdom is a masterpiece in theming. We often talk about Walt Disney’s displeasure at filthy circuses and fairs, but we keep trying to make new ones. Ideal ones, I say. And Storybook Circus does just that.
The land takes its double dose of Dumbo and steps it up. If you haven’t been, you need to try out Dumbo’s queue. While your family waits in line, there is a great, air-conditioned space for play inside. Even though Dumbo is generally considered to be a low-capacity attraction, there is a lot to do and see that makes the wait much more bearable.
Right next door is the Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini. This junior coaster is a great way to introduce kids to thrill rides. The queue is fun and full of gags and Easter eggs that refer back to previous iterations of the land. Once everybody is on board, the ride itself is super short, but smooth and fun. Most adults probably wouldn’t cram themselves into these ride cars on their own, but watching fear turn to joy on the faces of your kids is definitely worth it.
Continuing through the land, you come to a pretty great area giving homage to Dumbo’s Casey Junior train. Instead of the original attraction from Disneyland, you get a fun water play area where the cartoony cars and animals spit water. The theme carries well, but watch out as you’re getting pictures of your kids. You’re pretty likely to get wet!
Before you head back to Fantasyland, don’t forget to stop by Big Top Souvenirs! This giant, colorful tent is packed with plush toys but also a hidden secret that Main Street doesn’t want you to know about. Pretty much any confection you can get at the candy shop on Main Street is available here, including fresh cotton candy. And there’s rarely a line here. Get your sugar fix in the back of the park before you leave and save some time!
There are plenty of opportunities to meet characters back here too, rounding out this small but fun mini-land. Next time you can get in to the Magic Kingdom, make sure you set aside some time to venture here, between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Even if you don’t ride or buy anything, it’s a fun area to walk through, looking for hidden details. Hope to see you all there real soon!