Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Midget Utopia, 1957

The Disneyland Autopias were very popular from day 1, and only continued to become more in demand as the years went by, until there were (for a while) three of them operating at once. 

It seems only natural that small children would be the ones who most wanted to experience the thrill of driving, but the Tomorrowland Autopia cars were just too large for them. Even the Junior Autopia (which opened in 1956), with blocks placed on the gas pedal for those with shorter legs, were too much for the younger kids. And so, on April 23, 1957, the Midget Autopia (dammit, auto-correct, I do not mean "utopia"!!) debuted.

The Midget Autopia was basically an off-the-shelf ride with twin steering wheels, and a track/bus-bar to keep the kids from losing control. A scenic, winding roadway provided pleasant views and small-scale thrills. This little red number is a beauty, and the front end has a distinctly friendly "face"!

This kid looks particularly cool. All he needs is a cell phone and some shades, he could be a movie star. The Midget Autopia lasted just under nine years, closing on April 3, 1966, when it was removed for the addition of "It's a Small World".


Nanook said...


Who needs a lot of real flora when plain 'ol dirt will do just fine. And you're not kidding about that future speed-demon in the second image. It looks as if he is practicing "his moves" to impress his future "dates" - sunglasses, optional-!

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I'm too young to remember the Midget Autopia, but whenever I see pics of it, it reminds me of the Antique Auto Ride/Tijuana Taxi attraction at Knott's with it's track and dual steering wheels.

K. Martinez said...

I love pics of the Midget Autopia. Even though it's off-the-shelf, the kids smiles are just as real. It's the cool simple stuff like Midget Autopia and Motor Boat Cruise that you'll never see at Disneyland again. Nowadays it's got to razzle dazzle club-you-over-the-head in an IP sort of way. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic!, I remember the Antique Auto/Tijuana Taxi ride at Knott's and even though I was old enough to be able to remember the Midget Autopia, I don't. Than again, maybe I confuse the memory with all the other Autopias I rode at Disneyland as a child.

Chuck said...

Probably not news to anyone, but this is the Autopia that Walt donated to his hometown of Marceline, MO, in 1966, where it ran until 1977 when the equipment wore out. The Walt Disney Hometown Museum and the town are trying to raise the funds to build a replica next to the museum, but unfortunately a Kickstarter campaign last summer failed to raise the necessary funds (they only received $21,740 in pledges toward the $500,000 needed to realize the project).

You can see the remnants of the track in Marceline as well as a restored Midget Autopia car in Marceline today. A second Midget Autopia car was bronzed and is visible along the track of today's Autopia in Disneyland.

Nancy said...

Nice bright and shiny!! Sad they lost this one; this is the closest to Kiddieland that there was Im thinking. We had an Auto Ride at Kennywood here in Pittsburgh which is also gone now. :(

Anonymous said...

My favorite memory of this ride was the garage (with doors at both ends) that had a reduced scale basketball hoop and backboard above the entry. Ah, that Disney detail!

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, What's news to me is that they had a Kickstarter campaign for the ride. Too bad it failed to raise the money. Thanks for that bit of info.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I like to think of dirt as dehydrated mud. The kid in pic #2 needs to have his hands at 10 and 2, he is a terrible role model.

TokyoMagic!, was the Tijuana Taxi ride the one that went along La Palma Avenue? That’s the one I wish I had experienced.

K. Martinez, it is kind of weird to see an “off the shelf” ride at early Disneyland, even though the Astro Jets were also a generic ride. Still, the Disneyland Midget Autopia had beautiful landscaping, which is what made it special.

Chuck, I remember that Kickstarter; half a million dollars is a lot to ask of people who will probably never make it to Marceline to enjoy the ride. I like the idea of it operating again, but yeesh. That is a ton of money. In 2012 a vehicle that was purported to be a MA car (in pieces!!) sold for over $15,000; there was no evidence that this was actually from Disneyland, and I’ve always wondered if it might have been from some other amusement park.

Nancy, was there a “Kiddieland” park in the Pittsburg area?

Anon, I never knew about the basketball hoop!

K. Martinez, I agree with you, it would be great to see the MA running again. I’m sure that half a million dollars is not even unreasonable considering the amount of restoration that it probably required. But still, that’s a lot to ask of people!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I have a very, very, VERY old but very clear memory of some friends of my parent’s (Frank & Maryanne) way back in the 1960s who had a little miniature car just like these. I remember it was white, gas powered, and very sporty looking like a little sports car. I was only about four years old but it must’ve made a very big impression on me as I have remembered it vividly all these years. Frank & Maryanne lived in Downey CA (if I recall). My dad is 90, he still remembers it too. He said he thinks Frank won it in some kind of a raffle. It looked JUST like one of these, I swear!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, the Antique Auto Ride/Tijuana Taxi at Knott's was located fairly close to La Palma Ave., but it was inside the park in Fiesta Village. There was an auto ride located outside the park that ran along Beach Blvd. and Crescent Ave. That was called Henry's Auto Livery. The Tijuana Taxi is the one that Bud Hurlbut relocated to Castle Park out in Riverside and it is actually still operating today.

Sunday Night said...

Great pics. I'm so used to seeing this little ride perfectly manicured. So rare to see the weeds and new tree. And what a great idea for little kids. 2 steering wheels so no one gets upset about who "drives" (which no doubt happens on Mr. Toad). I wish they had a ride like this today. Kids would love it.

Anonymous said...

As a small kid, I remember riding this 'attraction'. I especially loved when it entered the garage and the burst out the front doors as the car made it's way to the unload position. I have video pictures of me taken by my parents at the time. Great memories of long ago. KS