Plaza Swan Boats
Unlike many of the Magic Kingdom's attractions, the history of the Plaza Swan Boats is shrouded in mystery. While the Plaza Swan Boats would eventually open in in 1973 (supposedly), the attraction seems to have been originally intended as an opening day attraction. Herb Ryman concept art from 1970, and the Paul Hartley map of the Magic Kingdom both feature references to the attraction. Although non-operational on Opening Day, the Plaza Swan Boat's original loading dock could be seen just outside of the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and two large swan topiaries stood nearby.
While Disney has always stated that the opening of the Plaza Swan Boats came in 1973, photographic evidence seems to indicate that the attraction actually ran in 1972, from its original dock. This version of the Plaza Swan Boats may have run on an underwater electrical guidance system, that was rumored to have been replaced with the jet guidance system that the 1973 version of the Swan Boats opened with. Based on photographs of the time, it also appears as if the Swan Boats originally traveled counter clockwise around the hub, which made the expedition around the Swiss Family Treehouse the attraction's climax.
Nevertheless, by 1973, the Plaza Swan Boats were officially open. At this time, Disney repurposed the original Swan Boat dock as seating for the extremely popular Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. In conjunction with this change, a new dock was constructed near the Tomorrowland bridge. While the reasons for moving the attraction are unclear, the new dock had a much longer queue, which combined with the new location, would help alleviate some of the crowd by the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and the Plaza Restaurant.
The Swan Boats ran seasonally until 1993, the attraction was permanently closed. At this time, many of the attraction's boats were sold off to private collectors. Following the closure of the attraction, the Swan Boat loading dock became the entrance to the Magic Kingdom's Rose Garden. During the 2014 refurbishment of the park's hub however, the structure was demolished.
The Plaza Swan Boats opened on May 20, 1973 on Main Street USA. These elegantly shaped boats allowed guests to take a leisurely tour around the Magic Kingdom's canals. Traveling clockwise, the boats would tour the Hub, and also jet out for a lap around the Swiss Family Treehouse. While aboard, guests would be treated to a live narration of the sights that could be seen from the crafts.
The Plaza Swan Boats initially featured twelve boats, which each sat twenty six guests. Shortly after the attraction opened however, one of the boats was converted to a "vacuum boat" which was used to clean the canal.
Fun Facts and Trivia
- The creation of the Plaza Swan Boats was pushed by Disney CEO Card Walker, who wanted additional capacity at the Magic Kingdom.
- In many ways, the Plaza Swan Boats were the spiritual successor to Disneyland's Storybook Land Canal Boats, which also featured crafts named after various Disney heroines.