The past few weeks, we have been making our way through Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Today we are staying in the fairy tale land and going back to the beginning to discover an opening day ride. You may walk away from this one a little dizzy, but I think you will have a big smile on your face. Let’s sit down for a Mad Tea Party and get started with our…
Know Before You Go Essential Facts
The ride is located in the Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland
There is no height requirement
Fastpass + is offered
The fright factor is 0 out of 5
The queasy factor is 5 out 5
Guests must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV
Children under age 7 must be accompanied by a person age 14 years of older
The ride is 90 seconds long
The ride opened on October 1, 1971.
Those are the facts, now onto the fun!
A very merry unbirthday to you! What a crazy, mad, fun song that is. So much fun that when it came time to create an Alice in Wonderland themed ride, this song was the inspiration. Today, you can spin, spin, spin your way through the Mad Tea Party in your own pastel tea cup. How fast you go is almost entirely up to you! Before we pour ourselves into our tea cups, let’s travel down the rabbit hole to see where this ride began.
This was one of the opening day rides at the Magic Kingdom in 1971. Like many of those opening day rides, it took its cue from the Disneyland version that opened in 1955. Originally, the concept for Disneyland was a little more elaborate. The idea of joining the Mad Hatter and March Hare for an Unbirthday Party went beyond just the tea cups of today. The initial plans included a giant Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar that guests would walk by before arriving at a full dinner table in the middle of the spinning cups. Sadly, these guys didn’t make the cut, and the ride opened with just the tea cups. 18 tea cups to be precise. There are 3 spinning bases that each hold 6 tea cups. This proved to be such a successful formula, that the exact same set up was constructed when it came time to open the ride in Walt Disney World. So, opening day saw the tea cups spin to life in the same way as the Disneyland version.
That is a little unusual, as most rides are changed or updated in some way when they are recreated for a new Disney park. In the case of the Mad Tea Party, I believe the simplicity of this ride worked so well that there was no need to make those changes. Well, that is until the Florida rain showers started popping up every afternoon. When the ride was first opened it was uncovered, just like the Disneyland version. However, it didn’t take long for Disney to realize the climate in Orlando was more than just a little different from that in Anaheim. The heat, humidity, and rain made riding the tea cups a big challenge during certain times of day. So, only 3 years after being opened, the Mad Tea Party in Florida got upgraded to include a large canopy. Along with the canopy the large tea pot at the center of the ride was added. Inside the tea pot resides the Dormouse. He only makes appearances at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland versions of the ride. After this major addition, the ride remained the same until 1992. At that time Japanese lanterns were hung inside the canopy and the ride, the ride was painted with a new color scheme, and new music was installed. Since then, the only change to the Mad Tea Party has been another new paint job in 2010.
You’ll notice I didn’t say interactive queue anywhere in that list of refurbishments. Unlike three of the recent Fantasyland rides we have covered; Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Mad Tea Party does not include a new high tech queue. Everything about this ride screams simplicity, from the unadorned queue to the basic spinning motion of the tea cups. You know what? I think that is great! Sure, I love all the fun interactive elements of those other rides, but the Mad Tea Party is all about nostalgia. Whether you have been going to the parks since 1971, or experiencing the magic for the first time this year, one can imagine what it would have been like to ride the tea cups when Disneyland first opened. The simple fun of going round and round in circles to the theme of Alice in Wonderland makes this ride a timeless classic.
Don’t just take my word for it. Look at any of the Disney theme parks across the globe and you will find there is a version of the spinning tea cups. Disneyland and Walt Disney World are home to the Mad Tea Party. Disneyland Park Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland have the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, and Tokyo Disneyland hosts Alice’s Tea Party. If you can keep all those straight you might be as mad as the Mad Hatter himself! Obviously, this ride strikes a chord with many guests or it wouldn’t have been recreated for each park.
Now, that’s not to say that this ride is for everyone. Have I mentioned that the ride spins a lot? Actually, your tea cup has spins on spins on spins. What I mean is this. There is one large turntable that spins counterclockwise. On this giant disc there sits three smaller discs that each hold 6 teacups, and each of these discs spins clockwise. Finally, each individual tea cup is controlled by the rider inside and spins counterclockwise. So, your teacup is spinning on a smaller platform that is also spinning, which then sits on a larger platform spinning as well. Sound mad? Well, the good news here is that the two platforms aren’t spinning all that fast. Most of the force you feel will come from how quickly your individual tea cup is spinning and you get to control that. There is a silver wheel located in the center of the cup. Once the ride begins, your crew can each grab ahold of the wheel and begin to turn it as fast as they like. The more you turn your wheel, the faster your tea cup will spin! I find it hilarious to watch the changing speed of the tea cups. It is very common to see the cups spinning very quickly at the beginning of the ride, only to slow down the longer the ride goes. If you turn your wheel as fast as possible, you will feel the centrifugal force pretty quickly.
If spinning that fast sounds like a little too much fun, you can choose to sit in your tea cup and not turn the wheel at all. Doing this provides a pretty gentle ride as you only get the spinning of the two platforms. Overall, this ride can fall pretty much anywhere along the motion sickness spectrum. For those that are prone to motion sickness, you should probably skip this ride altogether. If you are a little unsure, I think you can give it a shot, but just sit in your tea cup without turning the wheel. Riders that get a little too ambitious with wheel turning are the ones that may regret their time on the Mad Tea Party. Practice a little caution, build up slowly during the minute and a half ride, and chances are you will have a lot of fun!
Speaking of fun, one of my favorite aspects of the Mad Tea Party is the opportunity to meet the characters outside the ride. Alice and the Mad Hatter usually take turns popping up near the ride entrance throughout the morning. You can check your My Disney Experience App for current appearance times when you are in the park. Most days they will be available from around 9:20 am – 11:55 am. The last time I was in the park I didn’t run into Alice, but I did meet the Mad Hatter! Let me tell you, this was one of my most favorite parts of the whole trip. The Mad Hatter was, well, mad! He was so goofy, so crazy, so witty, so friendly, and so much fun. He talked to Rachel and I for a couple of minutes, asking about my Duck Tales shirt that I happened to be wearing that day. Being from Wonderland he was not familiar with the show Duck Tales, and was very curious about why I would be wearing a shirt about the tales of ducks. Eventually we got him straightened out and I even got ask him about his favorite ride at Walt Disney World. As you might have guessed he said the Mad Tea Party! Now, I will say that the Mad Hatter is pretty excitable, so he may be too much to handle for young kids. However, for adults I think you will find him to be one of the most memorable characters you will meet in Walt Disney World.
If you have been listening for the past couple of weeks our rides have had a little theme running through them. I haven’t pointed it out to this point, but have you noticed it? I’ll give you a second to think back. Recently, we have covered The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid. What do those two rides have in common with this one? Character meet ’n’greets! Yes, all 3 rides have their respective characters located just outside of the ride. I highly recommend you take advantage of these opportunities. The unique interaction offered by these characters only adds to the experience of each ride. I probably wouldn’t have a strong memory of riding the Mad Tea Party if it weren’t for the awesome exchange we had with the Mad Hatter. Adding that to the ride made this one of my favorite memories from our past trip!
Next week we will continue with another ride offering a chance to meet a character that is out of this world! Who might that be? I’ll give you a little hint. We will be moving out of Fantasyland, but we will be staying in the Magic Kingdom. Mmm, out of this world, but in the Magic Kingdom. Be sure to come back next time to see who we target.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed our quick spin around the Mad Tea Party. This opening day ride is a true classic, full of nostalgia dating back to the time of Walt Disney himself. Next time you are in the park, try to find time to celebrate your unbirthday. I love a mid morning ride, as this is the best time to see the characters and avoid a long wait. Oh, and it also helps keep your tummy from going topsy turvy. In between breakfast and lunch is the perfect time to test the spinning power of the tea cups in my humble opinion.
Thank you so much for joining me today. As always, I have had a wonderful time sitting down to talk a little Disney with you. Until next time, make each day a ride worth taking!