Spinning the Mad Tea Party: B-ticket for A+ attraction

50 Years of dizzying Disney Fun

The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland, The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World
The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland, The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World (Disney)

BAY LAKE, Fla. – Not every attraction at Walt Disney World -- or any theme park -- is meant to be a headliner that draws people from across the globe.

But for 50 years, one of the most charming of these smaller rides has added kinetics and fun to Fantasyland.

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So grab your B-ticket and hop aboard a ride into the “Mad Tea Party” from 1951′s Alice in Wonderland.

a B-ticket ride coupon ca. 1971, used in the Magic Kingdom until 1980-81. Opening year cost: 25 Cents. (Disney)

Don’t expect a linear story here, just a spinning good time -- as long as you didn’t grab a bite to eat at the nearby “Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café” or a Cheshire Cat Tail at the “Cheshire Café” stand first.

Much like how “Dumbo” allows the young and young-at-heart to fly as high or low as you can safely go, each teacup has an oversized wheel in the center that allows guests to spin faster or slower.

Guests prone to vertigo may want to wave from safely non-moving ground.

The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland, The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World (Disney)

Florida’s version of the “Mad Tea Party” opened as a near duplicate of the spinning ride that had entertained guests at Disneyland since 1955.

The color stylist and concept artist of the original film, Mary Blair, designed the pattern on the oversized fiberglass “china” cups. There were three colorful turntables, each holding six “teacups” spinning counter-clockwise inside the main turntable.

By 1971, Disney and the company that did the engineering and construction, Arrow Development, had worked out the kinks that made early Disneyland maintenance teams curse and pull out the welder’s torches every night.

By 1971, Disney and the company that did the engineering and construction, Arrow Development, had worked out the kinks that made early Disneyland maintenance teams curse and pull out the welder’s torches every night.

What could possibly go wrong? Two words: summer thunderstorms.

The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland, Disneyland Park (Disney)

You might think it mad, but like the Disneyland original pictured above, The Magic Kingdom’s version opened without a roof, causing it to shut down due to Florida’s famous “liquid sunshine” nearly every afternoon.

Wisely, a roof was added to our “Mad Tea Party” in 1973, along with a little more décor -- such as the oversized tea pot in the center of the turntable that features the Dormouse popping up on occasion.

Twenty-nine Japanese-style lanterns now hang above and around the ride, and some oversized fiberglass “leaves” help add to the theming.

The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland, The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World (Disney)

Really, that’s about all there is to the “Mad Tea Party,” other than the medley of music from the movie that adds to the atmosphere.

Yet, it is one of the few rides in nearly all of Disney’s “Magic Kingdom”-style parks. The lone exception is Shanghai Disneyland, which features a Winnie the Pooh-themed “Hunny Pot Spin,” instead.

Hunny Pot Spin in Fantasyland, Shanghai Disneyland (Disney)

If that’s not enough to convince you of the ride’s appeal, consider this: when the Magic Kingdom opened, nearly all attractions required their own separate admission fees. That’s the B-ticket I mentioned earlier.

The “Mad Tea Party” is one of the few attractions to be moved up a letter -- from B to C -- over the years due to its popularity.

a C-ticket ride coupon ca. 1971, used in the Magic Kingdom until 1980-81. Opening year cost: 50 Cents. (Disney)

To purchase a B or C ticket by itself would set you back 25 to 50 cents in 1971 (roughly $1.59 to $3.37 in 2021 dollars). Internal Disney documents show roughly 1 out of every 10 guests who visited in the first two years queued up for the “Tea Party” during their stay.

While it’s probably not that popular today, at least a spin on the cups is included in admission, though a “Genie +” pass will probably cut your wait time.

Disney 50

To all who come to this happy corner of ClickOrlando.com, welcome! Walt Disney World is counting down to its 50th Anniversary, and so are we. With 50 days until 50 years, we are taking a daily look back at the past, how Disney’s opening shaped Central Florida’s present, and a peek at what’s in store for the future.

We’re also looking to hear your memories of Walt Disney World: What do you love? What do you miss? What are some of your magical moments? You can share them with us by sending us an email and we’ll post them all for everyone to enjoy. Some might even be featured during our News 6 TV coverage of Walt Disney World’s 50th.

Here’s to dreaming, and here’s to another half-century of The Most Magical Place on Earth!


About the Author:

Ken Pilcher is a lifelong Floridian with more than 30 years in journalism experience. He joined News 6 in 2003 and has covered Central Florida attractions and theme parks since 1988. He currently produces News 6 at 7 p.m.