They seem to be the essence, the simplest attraction and yet of the defining experience of any Magic Kingdom. They can be a gentle swirl as well the craziest spin !
This article is about the 5 Mad Tea Party attractions of the 5 Magic Kingdoms.
This title was not easy to come up with and certainly doesn’t flatter your humble servant but with 4 versions all called differently, something had to suffer : this was the title. But have I written it well, it would have turned out like that :
2 Mad Tea Party, 1 Alice’s Tea Party, 1 Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, and 1 Mad Hatter Tea Cups.
For various reasons, only Disneyland and Magic Kingdom park used the same name. All other three parks had to altere it in someway. Tokyo more expressively attached it to Alice, Paris in a curious anglophonic move linked it more directly to the funny Mad Hatter, and Hong Kong simply removed the possesive mark which seemed confusing enough in the french speaking Disneyland.
Early pre-1955 concept show the ride much richer, with the birthday party happening right in the middle of the spin, and lanterns hanging from the dancing in the air. Unfortunately, the ride ended up much lighter. Cups were fancily decorated, though not all of them, and lanterns were striped.
It was born rather naked, and moved away for the arrival of the new Fantasyland. Since then, Disneyland’s orignal bares more decorations, like the lanterns it was once deprived of.
In every Magic Kingdom but one, the Cups were part of the initial package. In Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland the were all present on opening day even though the US versions eventually had to change locations. Awkardly, when aranging placemaking for Walt Disney World’s new Fantasyland, the cups had to be pushed out of the land and on Tomorrowland ground. Only there can you watch Indy Speedway while waiting for your cup. In every park though, they sit on the right angle of Fantasyland triangle that trace Dumbo, the Cups, and the Carroussel at the lower corner.
Only Tokyo didn’t get its cups intitialy, they got it later on in 1986. It was actually the first new attraction added to the restort after its 1983 opening. In 1998 this asian replica of the Orlando version got a major facelift along their own Fantasyland redesign. It is now richer in detail and fancier than’t its Floridian counterpart.
In Disneyland, Mad Tea Party lays naked in the california sun, only there do the cups spin in the open. Moving it to Florida, because of shower storm the attraction had to be topped, so it did in rainy Tokyo and Paris, and eventualy in Hong Kong. Those four canopies are the major distinction between cups.
In Walt Disney World and Hong Kong Disneyland, the marquee is rather bulk. Magic Kingdom’s canopy is dwarfed by the big trees above it. Both their design are very simple. Tokyo’s new version is definitely more sophisticated even though it doesn’t compete with the Disney grandeur of the 90’s. Once again, Europe was lucky with that one. It’s all glass and ironwork. Description would get 4/5 of the Disney fans jealous, I’ll let the pictures explain. Inside the canopy, big hard lanterns hang still above the cups in every 5 Kingdoms. Disneyland being open air, they are attached to garden strings which allow a gentle sway.
Under the canopy (or the sky) every attractions bears the same mecanics of 3 rotating discs on wich 6 cups spins on an their axis, making a total of 18 cups. Interstingly, walking on Disneyland version it seems smaller than the other ones. This effect is due to the absence of roof. In every other locations, the canopy confine you into a unique area where laughters and shouts resonate such as in a big indoor attraction. You are therefor isolated from Fantasyland and feel like experiencing a major attraction rather than just the C ticket it actually is.
This “atmosphere” is help by the theming of the surroundings. In 4 or the Magic Kingdoms, a giant tea pot from which the famous Dormouse sicks out his head accompany the guest. In Tokyo and Orlando, Dormouse joins the guest as they spin for the pot stands in the center of the attraction. In Paris and Hong Kong the pot and its mouse entertain the guest still waiting in the queue. Disneyland doesn’t serve its tea with a giant pot, only with the lifesize topiaries shared by all 5 versions.
Though a very simple and common attracion in many non-disney parks, here again, the theme gave it the excellence it bares today. You don’t just ride a spiner, you ride in a giant cup ! Alice or the Mad Hatter no matter whose cups are, there always one of the must do, and most reknowned attraction in every Magic Kingdoms.
Very few know their local complicated name, but whoever has stepped once into a Disney park is gonna know what you’re talking about when you mention “The Cups”.
And that’s what makes it a Magic Kingdom icon.
Edit : It appears my history was wrong, Walt Disney World Mad Tea Party openned roofless and was covered only after the redesign of Fantasyland. Evidence can be found here
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