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Official: Disney World Set To Change Peter Pan’s Flight Permanently

Magic Kingdom inside of Walt Disney World Resort is making significant changes to the iconic Peter Pan’s Flight.

When Magic Kingdom opened its gates to the public in 1971, it promised a world of enchantment and nostalgia wrapped in the charm of its iconic attractions.

Statue of a man pointing, accompanied by a cartoon mouse, in front of a fairytale castle under a blue sky with clouds, surrounded by visitors.
Credit: Javier Parigini, Flickr

Among these original attractions was Peter Pan’s Flight, a ride that allowed Disney World guests to soar over London’s moonlit skyline into the whimsical world of Neverland, inspired by J.M. Barrie’s timeless story and Disney’s animated adaptation (Peter Pan, 1953). This ride, like many others, has become a beloved staple for generations of Disney parkgoers. However, recent years have seen a shift in perception that reflects broader societal changes toward the representation of cultural and ethnic groups in media.

Peter Pan’s Flight engages its audience with a flying ship voyage led by the adventurous Peter Pan. The ride captures the magical essence of childhood fantasies, but it has also drawn criticism for its portrayal of Native Americans, a depiction borrowed from the 1953 film. This portrayal has become viewed as outdated and problematic by a group of fans.

Peter Pan's Flight at the Magic Kingdom
Credit: HarshLight, Flickr

The controversy isn’t just a storm in a teacup; it’s part of a larger conversation about how historical attractions should evolve, if at all. This perspective is part of a broader movement that seeks to reassess cultural depictions in all forms of media, including other Disney classics like The Jungle Book (1967) and Dumbo (1941), which have also faced scrutiny for their representations that some call dated.

On the other side of the debate are those who view Peter Pan’s Flight as an untouchable classic, arguing that the ride is a product of its time and should be preserved as such for historical integrity. They contend that altering or closing the ride would erase a piece of Disney history, depriving future generations of the full spectrum of the company’s artistic legacy.

native american scene peter pans flight
Credit: Inside the Magic

The situation took a new turn when Walt Disney Imagineering recently filed a permit to “install set elements” in the ride, stirring a whirlwind of speculation among the Disney community. This filing was not accompanied by any confirmation regarding whether these changes pertain to the controversial scenes, but it was enough to reignite the debate on social media and in fan forums.

Supporters of change are hopeful that this signals a move toward a more culturally sensitive revision of the ride, while traditionalists worry about the loss of an original element.

Disney’s handling of Peter Pan’s Flight comes at a time when the company is navigating similar waters with other attractions. For instance, Splash Mountain, based on the banned movie Song of the South (1946), has been completely overhauled to feature The Princess and the Frog (2009), in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. This decision was met with both applause and dismay, highlighting the challenges Disney faces in maintaining its legacy while attempting to adapt.

A log flume ride under testing, featuring empty log-shaped boats on a water track, with a sign stating "sorry, friends, we are ride testing only. opening this summer!" in a lush, green park setting.
Credit: ITM

Peter Pan’s Flight is notorious for having one of the longest wait times in Magic Kingdom, often drawing lengthy queues that snake around its whimsical facade. Its appeal is broad, attracting not just children but also adults who wish to relive a piece of their childhood or introduce their own children to the magic. Moreover, the ride’s design, while immersive, has a lower throughput compared to many newer attractions, which limits the number of guests it can accommodate per hour.

Disney’s potential changes to Peter Pan’s Flight raise questions about the responsibilities of cultural institutions in the modern age. While there is growing pressure for Walt Disney World Resort to change many historic attractions on one side, there is another side pushing back against those narratives.

No matter what side of the aisle you fall on, it’s easy to see why this permit, which involves Walt Disney Imagineering, is significant for the future of the attraction. Only time will tell what changes this brings about.

The exterior of Peter Pan's Flight lights up at night
Credit: Disney

Outside of Peter Pan’s Flight, you can enjoy multiple other attractions inside Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, “it’s a small world“, Mickey’s PhilHar Magic, Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel, and the Storybook Circus can all be enjoyed inside the iconic land.

We will keep you updated on the latest developments happening at Walt Disney World Resort.

This post originally appeared on Inside the Magic

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