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10 Head-Spinning Facts About Disney's Mad Tea Party Ride

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Disneyland turns 61 this year—and so does Mad Tea Party, the revolving tea cup ride that's beloved by Disney enthusiasts and reviled by anyone who gets motion sickness. In celebration of the swiftly spinning saucers, let us serve you a few fun facts.

1. IT’S AT FIVE OF THE DISNEY THEME PARKS.

The ride is so popular that it has been recreated in nearly all of Disney’s theme parks. (That’s the Paris version in the above image.) The only theme park without a tea cup ride is the newly opened Shanghai Disneyland. It has a similar ride called “Hunny Pot Spin,” based on Winnie the Pooh’s adventures instead of Alice and her pals. But Wonderland isn’t completely absent from Shanghai—a maze based on Tim Burton’s Alice movies can be found in Fantasyland.

2. THE SPIN WAS ONCE SLOWED DOWN.

You may think of the tea cups as a kiddie ride—in fact, there’s no height requirement—but they can still spin fast enough to cause injuries. After a guest slipped and fell out of a tea cup in 2004, Disney made adjustments to the cups to make them more difficult to manually spin. Diehard fans complained, and Disney reportedly restored the spin the following year.

3. THERE WAS ONCE A GOLDEN TEA CUP.

To commemorate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary—which was also the ride’s golden anniversary, since it was there on the park's opening day—a special golden tea cup was installed. Other attractions that opened when the park did on July 17, 1955 were similarly honored. Rides that also got the gilded treatment included a Main Street trolley, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Cinderella’s Carrousel, the Jungle Cruise, and Autopia.

4. THE DISNEYLAND VERSION WAS RELOCATED IN 1983.

For nearly 30 years, the tea cup ride sat where King Arthur’s Carrousel sits today. In 1983, it was moved closer to the Alice in Wonderland ride, which had recently been refurbished.

5. THE MAINTENANCE CREWS HATED IT.

The Disneyland ride still had some kinks when the park first opened, and for the first few months it was in operation, maintenance crews spent up to two hours every morning welding cracks before guests arrived. It was re-engineered later in 1955, which solved the problem.

6. IT’S NOT UNUSUAL TO SEE ALICE RIDING THE TEA CUPS.

If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the White Rabbit in their natural habitat. It’s not unusual for them to hop on the ride with guests—and, of course, they get to skip the line.

7. THE CUP DESIGNS WERE CREATED BY MARY BLAIR.

Mary Blair made many contributions to Disney over the years, from working on concept art for films (including Alice in Wonderland, appropriately) to designing murals for the park and hotels. Blair also worked on many of the rides. While It’s a Small World is the ride that most notably has her stamp all over it, she also worked on Alice. Most of her original tea cup designs are still in use today.

8. THE RIDE WAS TWEAKED FROM THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT.

Early concept art for the ride features a tea party table centerpiece, with larger-than-life versions of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. The characters would have serenaded guests with "Very Merry UnBirthday" song during the ride. Also featured: Giant sculptures of the caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat.

9. DISNEY DIDN'T DESIGN THE RIDE.

Arrow Development, an outside contractor, was responsible for building six of the rides for Disneyland's opening day: Mad Tea Party, Dumbo, Snow White's Adventures, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, King Arthur's Carrousel, and the Casey, Jr. Circus Train. According to Imagineer and Disney Legend Bob Gurr, all of the rides, except for the carousel, were prototypes. "That meant all of the developmental testing was to be done by our Disneyland guests!" According to Gurr, Arrow lost money on making the rides. When Walt Disney offered to make up the difference, the owners of the company refused, saying it was just an honor to work with Disney. Their humility paid off—Disney contracted Arrow for many more rides, and eventually bought a third of the company.

10. DESPITE LONG-STANDING RUMORS, THE PURPLE TEA CUP IS NOT THE FASTEST.

Many guidebooks and Disney tip lists will tell you that the purple tea cup spins the fastest. Sometimes you'll read that it's the orange cup with diamond shapes on it. It's a myth, says Yesterland—especially since the ride modifications that happened in 2004 and 2005.

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See the Spot That Inspired Sleeping Beauty's Castle
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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When Walt and Lillian Disney took a European vacation prior to the construction of Disneyland, they were particularly inspired by one location in southwest Bavaria, Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle. Built by King of Bavaria Ludwig II starting in 1869, the castle was meant to have serious dramatic flair; the king hired a stage designer from Munich, Christian Jank, to design it.

Walt Disney went on to use Neuschwanstein as the basis for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland, but Ludwig II—known as the "fairytale king" for his love of plays, stories, and music—had far from a fairy-tale ending. In fact, he only lived in the still-unfinished castle for six months before his cabinet had him declared insane and replaced him. He died under mysterious circumstances, found drowned in waist-deep water, not long after.

You can learn more about the castle, and see some beautiful footage, in this video from Great Big Story.

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Pop Culture
Rare Disney Artifacts From Early Imagineer Rolly Crump Head to Auction

If you’ve ever marveled at the fantastical facades of Disney’s "It’s a Small World" attraction, you can partly thank Imagineer Rolly Crump. Throughout the 1960s, the animator and designer helped bring to life some of Walt Disney Parks’s most iconic attractions, including the "Enchanted Tiki Room," "Haunted Mansion," and "Adventureland Bazaar."

Later this month, some of his original pieces will go under the hammer at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California. The most valuable of the 400-plus lots is Crump’s original model for a clock in "It’s a Small World," which could sell for up to $80,000, according to the auction house. The design was mocked up from fellow Disney artist Mary Blair’s original sketch, and the end result is now a permanent fixture of the boat ride attraction.

A few other items up for grabs are a Polynesian-style shield that Crump sculpted for the "Enchanted Tiki Room," an original devil prop from "Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride," an original "Haunted Mansion" poster, and a costumed character head from "Babes in Toyland." A ticket for the grand opening of Disneyland in 1955 is expected to sell for as much as $5000—although unfortunately it won't grant the buyer entry to the park these days.

In addition to pieces created for Disney, the collection also includes Crump’s original artwork, some of which dates back to his high school years. One such illustration of a colorful character wielding a sword and smoking a pipe was entered into a radio contest in 1947 by Crump’s mother, unbeknownst to her son. He didn’t win, but his consolation prize came five years later when he was hired to work at Walt Disney Studios at age 22.

The “Life and Career of Disney Legend Rolly Crump” auction is scheduled for April 28, 2018.

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