Disneyland once had twice as much magic. In 1983, when Sleeping Beauty Castle’s drawbridge was raised and lowered for only the second time, half that magic disappeared.
If Merlin's Magic Shop had to go, at least it left with its own sort of magic trick. When the New Fantasyland premiered in 1983, Merlin’s had vanished. The not-quite twin sister of Main Street Magic was replaced by Mickey’s Christmas Chalet, a short-lived tinsel and ornament boutique themed to match Mickey’s Christmas Carol, an equally short-lived animated featurette.
Since the original Fantasyland was closed around the time I joined the Cast in summer 1982, I never got to work a shift in the Castle courtyard opposite Merlin’s. I remember it fondly from my youth as a place I spent a good deal of time and money. I bought my first Tarbell volume there, along with a number of tabletop illusions that amused many a kid's birthday party in my later years.
It’s amazing that Disneyland merchandise once included things like the Tarbell Course in Magic, arguably the best magician’s training program ever produced. Tarbell is a serious course, something you’d expect to find in a professional magician’s supply store. Talk about more interesting retail than never-ending plush and t-shirts!
I’m glad that Main Street Magic remains, but the two shops were really more complements than twins. Fantasyland contributed a “sorcerer” atmosphere to the tricks and monster masks. The interior of the small shop was stone and iron, a fitting background for latex gargoyles and ghouls. Main Street Magic was the Orpheum, the Hippodrome. More Blackstone than Sword-in-the-Stone. Gleaming chrome Chinese linking rings, colorful production screens, and sleek aluminum cups and other apparatus presented a different flavor of magic than Merlin's. White gloves and tuxedos, not pointy purple hats and robes with stars and moons. That’s good. Main Street needs its vaudeville.
But Fantasyland needs its sorcery, too. Disneyland should make Merlin’s reappear.