This 1979 brochure for the now defunct Magic World in Pigeon Forge Tennessee was not your typical tri-fold affair. Nope they spent some serious moola on this, and made it a 14 page booklet spectacular.
First, a very big thanks to everyone who has commented on this post so far. I never visited Magic World, but if anyone reading this has, please continue to leave a comment. This post has became a Magic World internet hot spot, so if you're here because you're a Magic World fan you may wish to read the comments from other Magic World fans.
In fact, one of those comments was from Sonny Thrower. Sonny was Magic World's General Manager from 1979 until it's close in 1996. Sonny was much more than your typical GM, he was also a creative talent who worked on designing the attractions. I've asked Sonny a few questions about Magic World's attractions, and was surprised to learn that many of the attraction were done in-house!
Here's Magic World's "Land of Arabian Nights" with its Magic Carpet Ride pictured prominently. To me this ride looks like it wants to be Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean crossed with Peter Pan's Flight.
Here's what Anonymous had to say about the ride:
I visited Magic World once back in the mid 80's. The Magic Carpet Ride did suspend the ride vehicles from the ceiling like on Peter Pan, but you weren't that far off the ground. It was kind of like Peter Pan meets Pirates, but with an Arabian Nights theme. I remember the animatronics were seriously creepy. Their mouths would open and close but they didn't say anything and there was this freaky "woosh" wind blowing sound through the whole ride. It gave me serious heebie jeebies.
And here's Sonny Thrower's explanation of the flying effect:
I have no idea what's going on in the pictured show scene. I think it might be an interpretation of the Pirates of the Caribbean's "wench auction" scene without Marc Davis's clear staging, and a creepy edge. Check out the scary faces on those figures (especially the face of the woman who's being carried - it's the stuff of nightmares), and notice how the hands are not grasping the rope either. I'm assuming due to budget constraints they could only afford one style of hands."The Magic Carpet Ride" cars were suspended from a rail in the ceiling, with the scenes getting smaller as the Carpet "flew" through the air (giving the illusion that the Carpet was going higher and higher).... Here again, all of this was done in-house. With Barbie dolls and Ken dolls toward the end!!!
The shot of the ride vehicle suggests the vehicles travel suspended high over the show scenes, but the shot is faked. This was a time before Photoshop, and if you look closely you can see cut marks at the bottom of the vehicle. Another clue is the same shot of the people in the vehicle is on the cover of the brochure, and in that photo it looks like the vehicle is only three inches off the ground.
Next is the Haunted Castle... I wish I could have ridden this, and in a way it feels like I have. Out of the four images on this page, only the executioner with the ax doesn't look like it came out of Disney's Haunted Mansion attraction. The largest picture shows a spooky organist (with a plastic looking hat) who looks very much like the phantom organist from the ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion.
But it's the center picture of the coffin that wins the prize for looking most like Disney's Haunted Mansion. This scene is such a near perfect copy of the conservatory scene in the Haunted Mansion.
Now here's Jared's memory of the ride:
As I recall, the Haunted Castle was almost a beat for beat copy of Disney's Haunted Mansion. There was even a preshow area where you were gathered together in a room and menaced by a creature up in the rafters.And here's Sonny again:
Merlin's Magic show featuring a costumed cartoon character with human hands. Moving along now...The "Haunted Castle Ride" was completely done in-house, from the characters (made of chicken wire, cloth, hand carved stryofoam heads), to the recorded sound effects. Some of the scenes were based on Disney's "Haunted Mansion"...The "train" mechanism was actually a car used in factories which followed an electric wire embedded in the floor of the ride. It pulled 4 or 5 wooden carts for people to sit in. As the "Train" passed a group of scenes, there was a tripping bar that would activate and de-activate each set of scenes. Again ALL of this was done in-house.... Even the building itself....wood, foam and gunite!!
Cartoon map overview of the park. Not a whole lot to do in 1979. If you click here, I found a 1991 cartoon map of Magic World which shows how they added a lot more amusement park style rides .
The Flying Saucer is another Disney-ish style attraction. Circle-Vision theater at the Disney parks featured 360 degree movies. Here it looks like they have a 180 degree theater. The fact the inside the theater picture is an artists rendering, and not a photograph makes me suspicious about what the actual attraction looked like.
Here's another of Jared's childhood memories :
I have fuzzy memories of the Flying Saucer attraction. Of course as a youngster I totally believed that we were flying around the Smokies in that crappy plastic and plaster disc! I also recall that it was surrounded by astro-turf. Weird the things that you'll remember.I'm sure the Confederate Critter Show wanted to be like the Country Bears Jamboree, but probably ended up more like a Chuck E. Cheese show. Actually the figures here look like they came from a Showbiz Pizza (anyone remember those?), and according to an anonymous commenter they were manufactured by the same company who made the Showbiz Pizza characters - which is Creative Engineering, Inc. founded by Aaron Fechter.
Here's Sonny with more info on the creation of the show:
There was an international convention for amusement parks every year. One particular year (probably 1977) there was one guy at a table with an "animated" bear head. It was indeed Arron Fechter. It was the FIRST of its type outside Disney. MAGIC WORLD bought it and created "THE CONFEDERATE CRITTER SHOW" with one bear, and the soundtrack recorded for a live person (a Yankee!! LOL) to interact with the bear. Eventually, a Fox and a Hound dog were added to our show long before the pizza places.
These last pages of the brochure just throws a bunch of odds and ends at you. See our fiberglass dinos, see our fiberglass mountain, have your picture taken with our no-brand walk-around characters, eat our ice cream, buy stuff at our gift shop, etc...
Well this concludes my tour of the Magic World brochure. Magic World went out of business in 1996. I had a suspicion Magic World had been struggling for many years, and the growing popularity of nearby Dollywood was probably the final nail in the coffin for Magic World. But according to Sonny this was not the case, it was because Magic World's 20 year lease was not renewed. Why wasn't it renewed you may ask? Here's Sonny with the sad story...
When MAGIC WORLD opened in 1976, there was very little in Pigeon Forge except fields and fields of corn, "Rebel Railroad", "Hillbilly Village" (which was mainly a big souvenir store and some Hillbilly artifacts). So basically it was a huge empty area on the way from Knoxville to Gatlinburg. Property value at that time in Pigeon Forge was very cheap. The original lease was for $60,000.00 a year for 11 acres!!!
Well Pigeon Forge continued to grow and grow (with Rebel Railroad turning into Goldrush Junction, which turned into Silver Dollar City and eventually Dollywood.) We built the first Mini-Golf course in town, and with it's obvious success and MAGIC WORLD'S continued growth, naturally, property values sky rocketed.
When the "time" started to roll around to renew the lease, we knew the property would be high. I think our first offer was $350,000.00, but the land owner counter offered with a higher figure, which we accepted. BUT every time we would accept his offer, he would raise it again. The value of 11 acres (with FRONTAGE on the parkway) was pretty much out of our reach at any price. The owner's plan was to sub-divide the property into sections and have multiple lessee's. (There was a rumour for a while that SIX FLAGS was negotiating) I continued to re-work our operating costs and could still make it work at $650,000.00. But the reality was that no matter what we offered, he had his mind set on sub-dividing the property, so we stopped our offer at $650,000.00 hoping at the last minute, he would accept it. Likewise, he was assuming that we would raise it to One million at the last minute. (A restaurant down the road had made a deal for one million, and all of the land owners in Pigeon Forge got dollar signs in their eyes!)
Well, the deadline finally came. With each of us thinking that some deal would be made since there had been no "hard" offers on the land, and (to both our surprise)....no deal was made......the lease was up. We closed.
One thing is for sure, from the comments I've been getting people who visited Magic World developed a strong emotional connection to the park.
Here's what Magic Butterfly had say:
When it closed, I cried. Gone was my fantasy park and my childhood.I'm sorry I never got to see Magic World in person. I'm sure I would have loved it as a kid.
Please continue to leave comments folks. I love reading them.
VIDEO UPDATE 2017
Thanks to Jared who left a comment with a link to a Magic World YouTube video. YouTuber Rance Garrison posted a video of a 1989 visit to Magic World. It's almost 40 minutes long so here's some time markers for you:
Haunted Castle 7:22 (very dark and grainy)
Merlin's Magic Show 14:58
Magic Carpet Ride 23:13 (also very dark and grainy)
Confederate Critter Show 25:34
Dragon Train 30:00 (looks like by 1989 the trains were gone, and they just let people walk around to view the fiberglass dinos)