It was a proposition sure to widen to eyes of any little tyke with nautical aspirations, an opportunity to navigate their very own motorboat, and skillfully navigate through treacherous boulders and hairpin turns with the skill of a seasoned sailor. And, for over three decades, Disneyland’s Motor Boat Cruise provided countless voyages for millions of delighted kids.
The Motor Boat Cruise opened in 1957, sandwiched between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, and provided countless exciting voyages to young skippers anxious to take control of their own aquatic vessel. Guests would travel through the murky green water, along a course that included a number of treacherous obstacles to be avoided, lest you risk sinking your boat.
The murkiness of the water also helped to hide a little secret – one that, if revealed would shatter the fantasies of young voyagers everywhere: the boats were on a track and (gasp!), you didn’t actually steer them. Of course, any parent that chose to reveal this information risked alienation surely as severe as if they had questioned the authenticity of Santa Claus. Luckily, many parents managed to skillfully conceal this bit of heartbreaking knowledge. Most young riders were oblivious to the guiding track until later in life, when other childhood illusions were similarly shattered and the world became a far less magical place.
An attempt was made in 1991 to spruce up the Motor Boat Cruise, which had begun to show its age, and the lagoon was transformed with little imagination into the short-lived “Gummi Glen”, home of the semi-popular Gummi Bears, based on a Disney children’s show at the time. Cruisers could now watch in awe as Bears stood on the shoreline and made “gummi juice”. (Oh, can’t you just feel the excitement?) Regrettably, a few years later, when Mickey’s ToonTown opened nearby in 1993, even the Gummi Bears couldn’t save the attraction that had delighted millions of children for over thirty years. The operating budget was reportedly transferred to the newly built land and the Motor Boat Cruise sadly closed, leaving an abandoned lagoon that has yet to be given new life.
The next time you find yourself in Fantasyland, listen carefully and you might still be able to hear the rumbling engines and the squeals of delight that once echoed through the surrounding trees and made the dream of driving a motorboat a reality to countless future sailors, eager to conquer the high seas and prove their nautical skills to any adult who happened to be watching.
If you have fond memories of taking one of these boats out for a spin, or if you vividly recall the disappointing day that you learned that you hadn’t really steered anything, we welcome all of your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this extinct Disneyland attraction of yesteryear.