The Storybook Circus in the Magic Kingdom is a land that can easily be overlooked as the kiddie corner of the park. It features two pint-sized attractions, a pair of meet and greet character opportunities, a splash and play zone, a train station, and a shop. Yet, scattered throughout this corner of Fantasyland, are layers upon layers of details. From the animal prints in the dusty sidewalk that match-up to whether a creature came in on the railroad or via wagons, posters and equipment from some of the Great Goofini’s more dazzling, if failed, feats, to train cars that know a thing or two about Disney animated history.
Speaking of animated history, there are a lot more characters present throughout Storybook Circus than one can actually meet and interact with, and each of them comes complete with a fanciful act perfect for a traditional big top setting. As you make your way between the Fantasyland station of the Walt Disney World Railroad and the main shop of the area, Big Top Souvenirs, you come across a series of five banners, the central of which is proclaiming this to be the world’s only all animal circus! Included alongside this banner are four other, double-sided banners featuring some of the acts and their practitioners. You may have to make a loop around them to catch all of the characters, but it is a regular who’s who of Disney animated animals. The animal stars and their acts are: Salty the Seal and his Symphony of the Seas, Humprey the Unicycling Bear, Lambert the Man-Eater, Hyacinth Hippo – Ballerina of the Big Top, Strongman Pete – Lifter of All Things Heavy, Pluto the Wonder Pup, Clara Cluck – Pitch Perfect Prima Donna, and Horace the Rubber-Hose Horse.
Some of these acts, such as Pluto, are well-known and beloved characters, whilst others are pulled from deep in the vault of Disney animated shorts. What’s more, some of the acts play up things we already know about the characters, Hyacinth being a ballerina for instance, while others play against type, including Lambert who is known as a sheepish lion, but here is a man-eater. The banners also take to some visual gags to clue us in on some of the character’s true intentions. Take, for example, Pete – Lifter of All Heavy Things. We know him as a cheat and, sure enough, the 1,000 pound weights he is lifting are in reality balloons that he has painted numbers onto.
These are the only references to these, and other, characters in Storybook Circus however. Once you make your way inside Big Top Souvenirs, be sure to make note of the freestanding displays. Sure, the pins, plushes, pinwheels, treats, and other souvenirs may be tempting to your eye, but stay focused! Each of this stands are built atop a metal feeding tub belonging to one of the star acts. Wandering around the shop you can find repurposed feeding bins belonging to Horace, Clara, the Big Bad Wolf, Salty, Lambert, Pluto, and Hyacinth. While it begs the question as to whether these are extra tubs or if the shop has to get broken down to feed our animal friends each night, it’s a nice way to keep the feeling that is a living, breathing circus at the forefront of guests’ minds.
Storybook Circus is much more than just a corner of Fantasyland to pass through on your way to the train station or to only stop in for a quick flight with Dumbo. There is a lot of history presented throughout the area from a plethora of animated points in Disney’s history. Some are immediately recognizable, some you’ll feel like you know, but you may not be sure from where, while others will certainly take some digging to find their original screen debuts. If this is a circus run entirely by animals, then they certain have an eye for the details!