If you tuned into last week’s podcast you heard us cover the Top 5 Rides for Fastpass+, and today’s ride made #4 on our list. The boy that never grows up has a ride that never grows old. Of course, I’m talking about Peter Pan’s Flight! Before we get our sprinkle of pixie dust and fill our minds with happy thoughts…
Let’s get started with our Know Before You Go Essential Facts:
- The ride is located in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom
- Fastpass + is available and recommended
- The fright factor is 1 out of 5
- There is no height requirement
- Guests must be ambulatory
- Audio description and hand held captioning are available
- Children under the age of 7 must be accompanied by an adult 14 years or older
- The ride is 3 minutes long
- The ride opened on October 3, 1971. An updated interactive queue was added and opened in 2014
Those are the facts, now off to Never Land!
If you have ever wanted to visit Never Land, but have yet to meet a flying boy sporting green tights, well you are in luck! Peter Pan’s Flight is a classic dark ride that takes you flying through the sky in your very own pirate ship. The peaceful journey is fun for kids of all ages. This ride is full of classic audio-animatronic characters, a 48 foot long pirate ship, and a view of London that can’t be beat. This ride has a history dating back almost as far as the Disney animated classic itself. It also has a rich new chapter to explore, and today we will talk about all of that and more.
As with most of the classic Disney rides, Peter Pan’s Flight gets its start in California at Disneyland. The ride first opened there on July 17, 1955, shortly after the film was released in 1953. Like the animated movie, the ride was a big hit and guests to the park fell in love with the adventurous charm they found on their journey to Never Land. So, it might seem like a no brainer to bring Peter Pan to the Magic Kingdom when Walt Disney World was being planned. Actually, the Disney Imagineers had something completely different in mind when working on the Magic Kingdom. There was a movie that Disney had yet to bring to the theme park. It was just a small film, mildly popular, only 5 Academy Awards. What movie? I’ll give you a couple of hints. This film, like Peter Pan, had a story set in jolly old England. Oh, and the main character had the ability to fly, although the flight took a slightly more civilized form than Peter’s. Have you guessed it? Need one more hint? What if I said this movie was practically perfect in every way? O.k. hopefully that gives it away, we are talking about Mary Poppins!
I love Mary Poppins. It is my all time favorite Disney movie. One of my favorite parts of a Disney trip, even now, is seeing the magical nanny. I turn into a blushing kid whenever we stop to take a picture with her. So, the idea of a Mary Poppins ride is, well what’s the word? Hmm, there probably isn’t a word that could describe it. Oh wait, there is a perfectly good word! It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Yes, a Mary Poppins ride would be amazing.
So, what happened? Why did Peter come to the Magic Kingdom instead of Mary? If you have seen the wonderful film Saving Mr. Banks, you know the story behind Walt Disney obtaining the rights to make the movie Mary Poppins. To say it was a long process would be an understatement. P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, was extremely reluctant to allow Mr. Disney the opportunity to share her treasured character. It took him 20 years to get his creative hands on the movie rights. While almost everyone in the world fell in love with Walt’s version of Mary Poppins, it is reported that P.L. Travers was not one of them. Some believe she regretted her decision to allow the movie to be made. So, one could speculate rather easily on how she would react to Mary joining the cast and crew of Mr. Disney’s theme parks. The company has never confirmed that this is the reason behind the glaring absence of a Mary Poppins ride, but it seems the most logical reason to me.
Whatever the case, the ideas and drawings for Mary Poppin’s Jolly Holiday, have yet to be realized. Instead, the Disney Imagineers moved forward with Peter Pan’s Flight. They did make some changes to the ride when bringing it to the Magic Kingdom. One of the most significant was the addition of Peter Pan. Yes, the 1955 Disneyland version did not include Peter Pan. The reason? Well, the idea was that you, the guest, were in Peter’s place, flying through Never Land. You were seeing everything from his big flying perspective. That sounds great in theory, but as you might imagine a lot of riders left the Disneyland version asking why Peter wasn’t in the ride. They had a hard time grasping the Imagineers’ concept. So, when it came time to create another version of the ride, Disney wisely decided not to make the same mistake twice! Audio animatronic figures of Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, and others were created for the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom version also got an operational upgrade as Peter Pan’s Flight now used the omnimover system. Like The Haunted Mansion and Spaceship Earth, a steady stream of ride vehicles move continuously, and you must step into them fairly quickly. With new scenes, new AA figures, and a new ride system, Peter Pan was ready to take guests on the most magical flight they could imagine. The new version of the ride was completed and opened on October 3, 1971, two days after the Magic Kingdom’s grand opening. Since then, the ride itself has not really changed.
That brings us to today and what you can expect when you climb aboard your very own Spanish galleon. The brightly colored ships have striped sails, green lanterns, and comfortably seat two riders. As you leave the loading area you hear Peter’s voice excitedly proclaim, “Here we go! Off to Never Land.” Next you fly out of the nursery and look down on the family dog, Nana. From there it feels like you are flying higher and higher as you look down and see London growing ever smaller below. The simple tricks and black lights used in this dark ride are very effective and have held up well to nearly 50 years of operation.
Before you know it, the beeping horns of the busy London streets and the view of Big Ben fade into the distance. It is on to the second star to the right! Never Land comes to life in bright bold colors. Where London was small and distant down below, the volcanic peaks of Never Land are eye level, creating a stark contrast to the world left behind. You spend the next couple of minutes journeying through the magical realm, seeing familiar faces like the mermaids. If you pay really close attention you may even recognize one of the mermaids. Yes, the bright red hair and purple sea-shell shaped top belong to Ariel. This is a fascinating little piece of ride history. After the animated feature became so popular, riders of Peter Pan’s Flight were always asking Cast Members if one of the three figures was really The Little Mermaid. Of course, the ride had been open long before audiences journeyed under the sea with Sebastian, Flounder, and Ariel. So, what they were seeing was pure coincidence at that point. However, the ride underwent a small refurbishment in the 90’s and the Imagineers decided to give their audience what they had been wishing for. They sculpted a new mermaid which is now undeniably Ariel.
Beyond the Ariel and her fellow mermaids, you will also fly over Indians, and of course, pirates! Eventually, you pass by Skull Rock and come face to face with the Jolly Roger. This is a grand scene, Smee is happily watching Wendy walk the plank while Peter Pan is sword fighting with Captain Hook high up above. John and Michael watch helplessly as they and the Lost Boys are held captive by the rest of Hook’s crew. Have no fear though, the Tic-Toc Croc can be found nearby and Captain Hook’s defeat is never in doubt.
With Peter and the Darlings victorious it is time to leave Never Land and return to the unloading area. The ride is over just as quickly as it began, but the journey in-between is classic Disney. You’re sure to step off Peter Pan’s Flight humming “We Can Fly” over and over. At least until you walk across the way and ride It’s A Small World. I guess you should choose which song you want stuck in your head the rest of the day and ride accordingly!
As I said earlier, the ride itself has not changed much since it opened in 1971. However, the queue for this ride has changed in a most wonderful way. As part of the Fantasyland expansion and remodel, the restrooms located next to Peter Pan’s Flight were removed. New restrooms were built in a different location to take their place. Just a quick side note, the new restrooms are themed to the movie Tangled, complete with a forced perspective tower overlooking the building. Also, throughout this area there are camouflaged Pascals, the chameleon sidekick to Rapunzel. This is a great spot to let the whole family take a break in between rides. The kids can search for the hidden Pascals or get a kick out of the various Flynn Rider wanted posters!
As for Peter Pan’s Flight, the removal of the old restrooms allowed Disney Imagineers to really go to work creating an indoor, air-conditioned, interactive queue. The new queue opened in 2014 and I think it is the perfect addition to the ride. While your galleon will fly you to Never Land on the ride, the queue leading up to this leads you through the home of the Darlings. It begins with a walk down a long hallway. Inside you will find a beautiful gallery of 7 framed pictures hanging on the wall, each with a very recognizable scene from the film. Next, you will see the outside of the Darling household, with silhouettes of Mr. and Mrs. Darling in the window. Once in the home, there are a series of portraits: first Wendy, John, and Michael, then their parents, and last but not least, Nana the dog. As you continue winding through the home, you will find a series of windows looking out over the night sky of London. I love the play between being inside and seeing outside as it makes the whole experience feel expansive and immersive.
Eventually you will come to the kids’ rooms and this is where the real fun begins! I won’t spoil everything here, but let’s just say you might see a certain green fairy tinkering around the rooms. Pay close attention and you will see her fly next to the calendar on the wall in John’s room. The date circled is Dec. 27th of 1904. This signifies the year James Barrie wrote the novel Peter Pan, and Dec. 27th is the date the play first opened in London at Duke of York’s Theater. Another fun element in this part of the queue is a chance to chase your shadow, and possibly even see Peter’s shadow having fun. Overall, the queue is a wonderful example of what is possible when the creative forces at Disney utilize the latest technology to bring magic to life. Combine this innovative new experience with the classic storytelling found in the ride and you won’t want to miss Peter Pan’s Flight!
Now, it is time to talk about how to make sure you don’t miss out on all this fun. One reason Disney put in the new interactive queue is that Peter Pan’s Flight has very long wait times. Like most rides in Fantasyland, this ride is geared towards families with young children. So, as soon as the park opens, visitors will head to Fantasyland and the lines begin to build very quickly. Peter Pan’s Flight has a very low capacity, only moving about 1,000 riders through per hour. That means your chance of ever finding a wait time under 60 minutes is very slim. Which leaves the question, do you use a Fastpass+ for this ride? If you listened to our podcast last week you’ll know my answer is yes! I ranked this #4 in our Top 5 Fastpass+ Rides for Summer 2016. With that said though, let me point out, you will miss the really cool updated queue if you opt for a Fastpass+. For me, saving one to two hours makes that an acceptable sacrifice. However, if you don’t want to use your Fastpass+ here, or you just don’t want to skip the experience of the queue there are a couple of tips to minimize the wait.
The easy one is to arrive at the Magic Kingdom before the park opens and then make Peter Pan’s Flight your first ride of the day. You can save your Fastpass+ for other rides you will do later, but get this done first thing. Other than that, your best bet is to try the ride during one of the parades or fireworks shows if you don’t mind missing those experiences. Because the ride has a low capacity, it takes a while for the line to dwindle down even when no one else is jumping in. So, don’t expect there to be no wait, but hopefully you can catch a lull in the crowd as most of them are out watching a parade or fireworks.
Finally, there is one other option that will be available staring April 26th. This week Disney announced a new program called Disney Early Morning Magic. This is a separate ticketed event that will take place on select days, allowing participants a chance to enter the Magic Kingdom early. Your ticket, which is $69 for adults and $59 for children, will include breakfast at Pinnochio’s Village Haus and access to Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Those are 3 great rides, each with very long wait times, that you can enjoy before the park even opens! Plus, you won’t need to utilize a Fastpass+ for these 3 rides and could take advantage of skipping the line on 3 others later in the day. If you have a family of early risers and don’t mind the extra cost, I think this could be a great way to enjoy Peter Pan’s Flight without the long wait.
Whether you use a Fastpass+, pay for the Early Morning Magic, or wait it out in the long line, Peter Pan’s Flight is a ride you’ll want to make sure your kids get to enjoy. I hope you have enjoyed our journey into Never Land this week. I love exploring these classic Disney rides, and seeing how Disney is constantly working to improve the experience. I hope you have a great week this week, and remember to make each day a ride worth taking!