Thursday, June 24, 2010

Magic World

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was once home to a mini-theme park known simply as Magic World. I've never been there, but somehow I've always had this brochure tucked inside of one of my Time/Life encyclopedias since grade school.



I'm not exactly sure what year we're looking at here (early 70's possibly?) but the focus during this magical era of Magic World seems to be hooked on martians and dinosaurs, just like every kid on Planet Earth at any given time in modern history. Perfect!



The fold-out brochure map (click to enlarge) is a tantalizing treat of everything the park contained at the time: a giant pirate ship, miniature golf, an underwater world aquarium, The Earth Auger, a "dragon" train that circles the entire park, plus various fictional and factual dangers along the railway: ghosts, abominable snowmen, giant snakes, invisible men, cavemen, "beautiful" man eating plants, volcanos, flying saucers, and of course it all ends with a souvenir gift shop. Whoever designed this park totally knew what kids liked! I, for one, would've been in heaven!



Magic World folded in 1994, but it lives on of course in many places around the world wide web. People who loved (and hated) it have shared their memories and even photos on various blogs and chat boards, so if you're keen on learning more just surf around a little.

It's also interesting to see how this park developed in the years after this brochure, with the addition of larger thrill rides, haunted houses, and fuzzier theme park mascots... it's a shame it had to close. Have you ever been to Magic World? Tell us about it! And see other fun Magic World brochures HERE and HERE!

18 comments:

Lysdexicuss said...

Magic World looks way better than other theme parks to my imagination. It would be cool if some of these rides and/or sculptures turned up on that History Channel show 'American Pickers'. Anything with life-size UFOs is just bad-ass !

Mr. Cavin said...

I think it's funny that even the guy drawing the map couldn't summon up the optimism to fill the parking lot with cars.

This could not have been too far away from Dollywood, huh? I was born not far from here (in Sylva, NC), and while I tragically never made it to Magic World, I did visit several of the nearby great Smokey Mountain theme parks and tourist meccas: Gatlinburg, Cherokee, Blowing Rock, Tweetsy Railroad, Rock City, and the Land of Oz.

Wow, that's a lot. Was it something in the water? Or did the relatively protected economic environment in the southeastern mountains of the US just harbor fifties roadside culture longer than the rest of America?

Karswell said...

>Anything with life-size UFOs is just bad-ass !

I agree Dex, astronautically!

>This could not have been too far away from Dollywood, huh?

One thing I read online while researching for this post Mr. C was mention that once Dollywood opened, it was practically the death stroke for Magic World. I guess you simply can't compete with Dolly and her enormous um, talents.

prof. grewbeard said...

beautiful man-eating plants! nothin' prettier! wish i still had my map of Astroworld...

Anonymous said...

Looks like it was a fun place, a sort of low grade Disneyland for monster kids.

Karswell said...

Low grade yes, but 100% inspired it seems too.

UP NEXT: Cats in Love!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, more pictures of Magic World can be seen at my site:
www.oldgatlinburg.net

Anonymous said...

i loved magic world. it was everything that a young country boys imagination could every create. no long lines and something for everyone. dollywood at the time was gold rush junction/ silver dollar city and magic world competed well. it was the influx of cash that was thrown into the park when it became dollywood that spelled doom for magic world. they just couldnt keep up with the larger coasters and shows that dollywood added in the next few years. there was also a very successful water park near magic world, called ogles that dollys splash country ran into closing. its a shame. there was so much more character to these old resorts that the mega crowded dollywood
just cant seem to capture.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I visited Magic World when it was just like this brochure. I think at the time it was a theme park ahead of its time. It had the minigolf course, the ride through the caves and canyons, and the auger ride for it day in time when I was there about 1973 was pretty cool, If you have ridden the Mummy Attraction at Disneyworld where the tram goes into the cave you will get the same effect. The flying saucer theater was really pretty nice as it was a for runner of the Imax theaters projecting a view taken from a helicopter across the Smokey Mountains. A few years after I went there it upgraded and became filled with the kids rids and became known as Magic Mountain Kids Park. This was located next or very near the Hillbilly Village. I think there is a Howard Johnson Motel just behind the lot where it used to be. Oh yeah, before Magic World was built there the property was home to Fort Weare which was a stockade looking fort and on the inside were animals sort of a zoo so to speak. by the way the guy that built Magic World was the guy that created the Dinosaurs and got the idea to use them on a mini golf course from a fellow down in Florida. Soon after he was mas producing his Dinosaurs and selling the all over the country to mini golf courses.

Karswell said...

Interesting! I appreciate these additional posts from people who actually visited the park... thank you!

Anonymous said...

I went there every summer until it closed. It had real creepy and old animatronic (sp) characters on many of the rides. I used to love the dragon roller coaster (not on your brochure)...it really was for younger kids..

T. Gorbach said...

I visited Magic World many times as a kid from the early 1970's to about 1980. I loved it ! And always insisted on going to it when we visited Pigeon Forge. However, my parents weren't impressed and thought it was too expensive (over the years they eventually sent my sister and me in and waited outside). It's hard to remember specifically how the park was laid out when I visited, but it seems to me that you entered through a pirate boat in a lagoon (with dinosaurs standing in the background!) and moved up into a large volcano facade which had a waterfall pouring out near the top of it. If I remember correctly, just before exiting the interior of the volcano you passed a rather large aquarium with fresh-water fish in it. You exited the volcano into a open area which also contained numerous dinosaurs. From what I remember, originally the whole park revolved around dinosaurs and cavemen, but by the late 1970's they had added a number of Disney-like rides including a rather cheap version of the Haunted Mansion (I think it was called the haunted castle), a 360 degree I-max like flying saucer ride (which was actually pretty good, with the saucer flying over the Smokey Mountains in autumn), and an Ali-Baba Magic Carpet Ride (which, like their haunted castle, was something like a crude version of Disney's Peter Pan Ride). For the life of me I can't remember if the globe was a ride or not, but I do remember that it was added at about the same time as the other upgrades. I also remember the Earth Auger Ride made me nauseous – this shouldn't surprise anyone since it was essentially a carriage with passengers that moved into a spinning rock-covered cylinder. The effect was that of a spinning tunnel, and was meant to create the illusion of boring through the earth. I haven't been to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge since the early 1990's but it seems to me that Magic World was still there although it had changed substantially. I didn't go in, but it appeared that they eliminated many or the original rides and replaced them with what looked like generic carnival rides.
PS -- Somewhere in my storage I have a Magic World pamphlet shortly after it was built in the (I guess) late 1960s (the pamphlet shown here is from the mid or late 1970's I think). If I ever find it I'll upload it.

Karswell said...

Once again, thanks to everyone who continues to shares Magic World memories on this post! :)

Derek Tatum said...

I went to Magic World several times when I was a kid. While it was never the most high tech place, there was no upkeep near the end. The last time I went, the Dragon Train was long out of commission (it was basically a train ride past prehistoric dioramas). There was a chintzy Country Bear Jamboree knockoff named the Confederate Critters featuring some teenage kid (think that teenager on the Simpsons with the puberty-stricken voice) in a Union general outfit. And the Magic Carpet ride was indeed like a budget version of Peter Pan's Flight, but kind of ambitious for such a modest park. Sadly, one of the animatronics was repetitively thrusting his fist towards his groin area.

I would have traded all memories of Magic World to have gone in the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft up the road in Gatlinburg, though.

Karswell said...

It was interesting to get your comment yesterday, Derek, coincidentally enough after having spent most of the day in a huge discussion on Facebook about the Showbiz Pizza Rocka-fire Explosion Band, haha... I had to google the Confederate Critters, they seem to have been both created by the same animatronic company. Thanks for the memories!

Invaderson said...

I was the GM of Magic World from 1979 till we lost our lease in 1996. I know every detail about the development, evolution an ultimate demise of "My" world. I produced shows, built rides, designed brochures and tv spots. My hands were on everything in the pakl from the smallest signs, to training my "cast members"as character ride operators.It was MY baby. Sonny Thrower

Karswell said...

Awesome, Sonny! Please share your memories, we'd love to hear more insider stories and rare behind the scenes bits! Thanks for writing!

Luke F said...

I never visited magic world but I'm curious to know about the Confederate Critters. They were predecessors to the band at showbiz pizza, but I don't know much about what the show was like. People have told me they did songs like "The South will Rise Again", and that the characters had really rude personalities. But is there anything you remember about them? Any information would be greatly appreciated as I never saw them and thus know nothing. :)