Disney Infinity has been discontinued and I won’t miss it. I have had a mixed history with Disney video games. I did not enjoy Epic Mickey, but I have fond memories of Adventures in the Magic Kingdom for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The one gaming experience that does, however, hold a dear place in my heart is Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK).
What is Virtual Magic Kingdom you ask? Well let me take you back to 11 years ago when Disneyland was on the cusp of celebrating its golden anniversary. A companywide celebration of 50 years of theme park magic began and, to promote the celebration, Virtual Magic Kingdom opened its doors on the internet. I hadn’t even heard of this newest Disney Park until I read Ridley Pearson’s The Kingdom Keepers where VMK played a prominent role in the book. So I logged in after finishing the book and I was hooked.
Virtual Magic Kingdom was set up to look like you were entering a computer version of Disneyland Park. As a visitor, you could access attractions like The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even create a fireworks show for Sleeping Beauty Castle.
I spent a lot of time on VMK. I joined Disney fans from all over the world walking along Main Street collecting virtual pins, posters, and clothing for my avatar. Some decorated a virtual room which every visitor had. I didn’t spend any time in my room, I wanted to be in the park.
As a teenager, I’m sure I would have used my virtual guest room as a place to ‘hang out’ and meet friends online, but I was beyond that. This time in my life was my Disney Renaissance. I had finished university, and we were planning our first trip back to Walt Disney World in six years. Virtual Magic Kingdom was an oasis.
The hours I spent collecting coins and completing tasks so that I could purchase virtual pins and posters is a little embarrassing to state, but it was worth every minute. Special holidays meant you could purchase one day only prizes or pins, July 4th always had the most colorful items. While planning my 2006 trip to Disney World, I discovered the best part: Virtual Magic Kingdom had an in park component as well. They actually had quests at the real Magic Kingdom to complete and it was all for free. I was so excited I felt like a five-year-old on Christmas morning.
On our trip to Disney World in 2006, I dragged my poor wife through the Magic Kingdom completing quests in Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Frontierland. The multiple choice scratch off cards were to be completed on your quest and returned to the Main Street Cinema to redeem for your VMK trading cards which gave you a code to earn game prizes as well. These are one of a kind Disney souvenirs that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Virtual Magic Kingdom was that theme park that no one ever experiences in the real world. It was free to enter, fun to experience, and never had a line at the attractions. For any Disney fan from 2005-2008, they no doubt spent countless hours walking through the many lands. Virtual Magic Kingdom had it all but it couldn’t last.
On May 21st, 2008 Virtual Magic Kingdom closed its portal and park guests were only left with memories. Designed to help celebrate the golden anniversary of Disneyland in 2005, the park remained open longer than expected because of its popularity. Virtual Magic Kingdom was part of a promotion and never meant to be a long-term thing.
Closed theme parks never die though, because they always have a home on the internet. Ardent fans have preserved the memory of VMK through www.vmkrevisited.com. Billed as a chance to experience what VMK offered, visitors can’t experience the game aspect but are able to glimpse the online magic that was Virtual Magic Kingdom.