In my main article this month I compared selected references to Disney's 1951 animated movie Alice in Wonderland found within the Magic Kingdoms in California and Paris.
In one particular section of my article, I compared Anaheim's dark ride (with the same name as the film) to Alice's Curious Labyrinth in Paris. However, there is a similar attraction to the former in Pleasure Beach, Blackpool (the most visited amusement park in the UK) so I thought it might be interesting to compare the California attraction to the one in England.
The Blackpool attraction is called Alice's Wonderland, although park maps and the official website refer to it as Alice Ride. Park employees insist that the former is the correct name, based on the sign on its building saying "Welcome to Alice's Wonderland".
The show-building for each is shaped like a castle, with the load area to the right when facing it. Both attractions take place over two storeys, and have interior and exterior sections. Whereas the outside segments in the States feature faux leafs, Blackpool mainly features oversized cards, but does have some Disney-esque foliage.
The mode of transport one uses in Blackpool is a Cheshire Cat, whereas California has Caterpillars. Both come in a variety of colours and have two rows of seats per vehicle, although some of the carriages in Blackpool also feature models of Alice in Wonderland characters sitting in the back.
Both attractions start with a trip down a rabbit hole, with the White Rabbit appearing soon after. As such, the rest of the rides are quite different from each other (although both have an unintentionally spooky Flower Garden scene) with Blackpool referencing several elements of Lewis Carroll's original texts, which Disney hadn't featured in their movie and thus not in their ride.
At the end of the attraction, after the descent, California has a Mad Tea Party scene (which was moved to this part of the ride in 1984) whilst Blackpool has a storage area. The UK version does have a scene based on the Tea Party slightly earlier in the ride and is behind a sheet of Perspex so the Guests can't touch it.
Alice herself only appears once in the Anaheim ride, but makes multiple appearances in Blackpool, including one in which she is headless.
Anaheim's ride opened in 1958, whilst the one at the Pleasure Beach opened in 1961. Both were built by Arrow, although it was stipulated that they built the Blackpool attraction whilst "under license from Disney". Although never too similar to invite direct comparison (except for in this article) they have got more and more different from each other as time went by. For example, originally both had an "upside down room", which Disney removed in the early 1980s, but Blackpool kept theirs.
Blackpool's active changes, distancing the attraction further from the California counterpart, include removing Alice's narration (except in the opening scene of the ride), making various characters look more psychedelic (including the Caterpillar, who was later given a speech bubble) and redesigning the Mad Hatter to give him a more youthful appearance.
None of the characters in the Blackpool attraction looked too much like any of the Disney characters in the first place though. On the whole, they were based on John Tenniel's illustrations for the original books, whereas the Disney ride/film was thought to be using caricatures of people known to the animators.
Of the two, Blackpool was the first to add unsightly rails for the exterior descent; when California added these last year, leafs were added to blend these in with the decor, whereas Blackpool has done nothing yet to disguise them.
Apart from that, Blackpool has the better exterior, especially at night when lit up. Both have friendly staff operating the attraction (even more so than the usual smiling faces) and, whilst better maintained, California's attraction seems a bit too "staged".
Overall, however, if I had to choose a favourite of the two, it would have to be California. This is purely for the sound design; although the film it is based on runs at only 75minutes, it is the Disney movie to feature the most songs on its soundtrack, and the creme has been picked for this attraction.
Hugh is a former Cast Member, who now lives in London. He is currently writing a Mouse Tales style book about Disneyland Paris for Bonaventure Press.
Hugh Allison Can Be Contacted at:
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