I don't know if it was the long wait times which are consistently in the 40 minute range, the unimaginative queue that slowly takes you through a claustrophobic series of switch-backs or the fact that it's only a two-and-a-half minute ride but I had always been a tad underwhelmed by the immensely popular Peter Pan's Flight. I mean, I liked it, but if it came down to a 15 minute wait for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or Peter Pan, I’d go with the inferior Toady every time. I felt that way until our five-year-old began demanding to ride Peter Pan first thing every morning during our various Disneyland visits this past year. Parenthetically, if you must brave the line, the only time to do it is immediately after the park opens when the wait is a mere 10 to 20 minutes. And, it was my son’s excitement and enthusiasm that really opened my eyes to the crux of the ride – YOU ARE FLYING! Plus, it hits every key emotion, setting and character of the movie without getting too bogged down with the plot points like with Pinocchio’s Daring Journey – maybe its most impressive feat is its efficiency! But, big whoop… right? I used to think it was overrated and now I’m a fan. The real thing worth discussing is how large of an imprint Peter Pan once had on the park, what happened and where we go from here.
Much like with Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan’s imaginative and colourful setting, deserves its own little environment or mini-land within Fantasyland. But did you know that was once the case? Probably! But maybe not. Yes, for over twenty years Fantasyland boasted its very own Skull Rock Lagoon (1960 – 1982) which included the eponymous Skull Rock and a life sized Jolly Roger that doubled as an eatery known as the Pirate Ship Restaurant aka Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship aka Captain Hook’s Galley (1955 – 1982). No, I’ve never seen it myself but there are plenty of pictures and that’s exactly what stoked my imagination from a very early age. The picture you see below is one that my mom took when she was a little girl. And, as a kid, I was OBSESSED with it – so much so that I once brought it with us on our family’s annual trip to the park where I took it to City Hall to inquire on its current whereabouts. The lady working the desk told me it once stood where Dumbo the Flying Elephant now lives but no longer exists. The long and short of it is the whole area was a casualty of the 1982 Fantasyland remodel and, where there were once plans to either move it around the corner and integrate it with the Storybook Land Canal Boats or even further down the road to It’s a Small World’s promenade, all of these ideas were eventually scrapped when the ship was irrevocably damaged in the process of its removal during the aforementioned remodel. Even more distressing are the elaborate plans they had beyond a simple relocation – the Storybook Land canals would have been extended to include the lagoon and take guests behind Skull Rock and past the front of the Pirate Ship. An animatronic Crocodile would’ve also been added to the new Lagoon along with a multi-leveled viewing area where guests could watch a pirate show. No good idea goes to waste at Disneyland though as I’d like to wildly speculate that these plans were the very seeds from which Fantasmic! eventually blossomed. But, alas, it was not to be and the closest thing we have now to a Peter Pan-ish inspired environment is Tinker Bell’s Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet – YAWN.
But, could some variation of the Lagoon plans still realistically happen? No. They can’t. However, even then, a great hypothetically realistic spot for it would be where the stagnant and murky waters of the dormant Motor Boat Cruise still occupy the area just east of Small World Promenade and north of the Matterhorn. And, since we are in full fantisization mode, I’d love to expand on the Lagoon idea to feature an interactive play area, much like Tom Sawyer’s Island, fashioned after Neverland itself. It would include Hangman’s Tree, the Indian Camp, Mermaid Lagoon, Cannibal Cove, etc. This is all very complicated, high-concept stuff though that I’ll get more into when I go full Armchair Imagineering mode and release my own plans for the A Waltz Through Disney’s Perfect Disneyland in the Fall of 2023.
Fun Facts !
You may have noticed wood carvings of the Crocodile, Smee and Hook above the entrance of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. That’s because this building used to house Tinker Bell’s Toys from 1957 to 2002.
Not all of the Pirate Ship Restaurant was destroyed in 1982, a few artifacts live on in Peter Pan’s Flight such as a few lanterns and riggings.
Just as in the movie, the Jolly Roger actually flew! While Disneyland was being built, a humungous crane lifted the fully-built, life sized Pirate Ship into the park.
Not really a “fact” but my favourite detail in Peter Pan’s Flight is the framed picture of Captain Hook just to the left of the window in the Darling Nursery.
From 1955-1959, the Pirate Ship sat in a plain concrete pond. It wasn’t until 1960 that Skull Rock was added along with various other theming and details that made this area really sing.
As the Ship’s sponsor for a time, Chicken of the Sea represented a deft form of synergy in referring to both the brand of tuna fish it served as well as the cowardly Captain Hook.
Sitting atop one of the London themed roofs housing Peter Pan’s Flight is a Crocodile weathervane.