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Fantasy Or Reality?

There have been many intense rumors lately that the Magic Kingdom’s desperately needed Fantasyland facelift was coming, once more, perilously close to a greenlight. We’ve heard that before, and the Fantasyland rumors now go back several years. But today, things got a little more interesting:

Leaked Fantasyland plans for Walt Disney World

Today, the D-Report’s Soft-Opening site posted the above image; allegedly it’s a leaked copy of plans for the new Fantasyland. There are a few possibilities here: First, it could be some excellent work by an internet fan who collected the best of the online rumors and put them together to trick rubes like me. Or, it could be the real plan; the problem is, we all know that until the shovel hits the soil, plans are just that. Even if this came straight from Glendale, without a budgetary greenlight we still might never see it built. Also don’t forget that even if it’s a real proposal and gets approved, plans often tend to get downsized.

But what if this is real? How does it jibe with existing rumors? Alain Littaye and the webmaster of WDWMagic have already both said that this plan matches what they’ve heard from other sources; what if this is what we’re getting in Orlando?

Well, if so, it’s far more vast than I expected. Mickey’s Toontown Fair will mercifully face the bulldozer, removing this half-hearted “land” twenty years after it was originally intended to be removed. It seems that much of the existing Fantasyland area will be enclosed and set apart with a castle wall; this was a conceit seen in much of Disneyland’s original concept art, and will in effect set the Carousel in a medieval courtyard. The area outside the castle walls seems to be fairly heavily landscaped with lots of water features, and seems more bucolic in nature.

The largest addition, as has been so often rumored, is a new dark ride based on The Little Mermaid. Taking up much of the footprint once occupied by the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea show building, the Mermaid attraction will be modeled after a similar ride now under construction in Anaheim. In the blueprint, one can make out an extensive queue area and an Ariel meet-n-greet area.

Next to the Mermaid attraction, taking up the space currently occupied by Ariel’s Grotto, is a new area themed to Beauty and the Beast. Earlier rumors had a dark ride based on this film replacing Snow White’s Adventures, but that older attraction remains in this plan. The new Beauty area features a “Be Our Guest Restaurant,” “Gaston’s Tavern,” and something labeled “Belle Attraction.” The blueprint doesn’t seem to show an area large enough for a ride attraction, so one assumes that this is another meet-n-greet. Earlier rumors said that Mickey’s Toontown Fair would be removed and converted to a series of Disney Princess photo stops; in this plans, those photo stops seem to be sprinkled throughout the land.

Rendering for Beauty and the Beast show, Disneyland ParisRendering of the unbuilt Beauty and the Beast attraction/restaurant from Disneyland Paris

What’s really mysterious is the “Be Our Guest Restaurant.” While this could, of course, be another simple food court or restaurant, one can see that the Pinocchio Village Haus still exists in this new Fantasyland to suit that purpose. Could this new restaurant be a revived version of the unrealized dining concept for Disneyland Paris’s Fantasyland, which would feature an animatronic dinner show based on Beauty and the Beast? In that attraction, guests would dine while the Beast’s castle slowly came to life around them; it would be as if they had combined the Enchanted Tiki Room with an actual restaurant. It would certainly be a nice addition to the park.

Where the 20,000 Leagues lagoon once sat, and where the Pooh playground sits now, the blueprint shows another “attraction” themed to Cinderella. This, and the Aurora “attraction” next to it, are most likely photo opportunities similar to Belle’s area mentioned above. A small remnant of the Pooh area looks to remain across from the Pooh attraction; this, too, will be a photo spot.

What was once the main street of Toontown will become Pixie Hollow as was rumored, where Disney’s latest marketing opportunities will hold court. Across from Pixie Hollow sits the Barnstormer; while it’s labeled as such on the blueprint, its current theming as Goofy’s barn would make absolutely no sense in the new layout. Could this kid-friendly rollercoaster be re-themed to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves mine train coaster that has long been rumored?

One of the most intriguing (and to me, most pleasing) rumors that had emerged of late was that the Aladdin spinner attraction would be removed from Adventureland, where it is a terrible eyesore, to Fantasyland where it better belongs. In this design, it appears that the ride will be moved but given a facelift; in this blueprint, there are now dueling Dumbo flying elephant spinners sitting next to each other where the Toontown show buildings now are. This would be a big move for the little elephant, moving him clear across the east side of Fantasyland and doubling his capacity. Next to the spinners is something labeled “NextGen Interactive Queue” – whatever that means – and the Toontown train station will also gain Dumbo-related theming and be renamed as the Fantasyland Station.

It’s a pretty bold plan – far bolder than we’ve come to expect from the Florida resorts, yet it still seems to aim lower than Disneyland’s 1983 Fantasyland renovation. Of course I’d like to see more new attractions – I’ll always say that – but can’t we have at least one more C- or D-ticket? We’re still several attractions short of Anaheim’s tally. I could also grouse that I’d rather have the Bald Mountain Flume from the late 1990s instead of those meet-n-greets, but all that open space could certainly be used for future expansion. Still, if done correctly and on a decent budget, this could be a nice transformation for the Magic Kingdom’s outdated Fantasyland, and at least start to bring it up to the level of its peers. The cosmetic change alone could be extremely impressive. If it’s real, the devil of the plan will be in the details. If it really winds up bringing only a lot of new shops and meet-n-greets, it could disappoint. Then again, if it truly leads of the removal of the Flying Carpets from Adventureland, I’ll bow down and kiss Phil Holmes’s shoes.

We’ll hear more about this, I’m sure, and I’m going to do some sleuthing. But does anyone know anything about this?

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18 comments to Fantasy Or Reality?

  • I’m in love. Sign me up. I’ll contribute money. It seems like the “Be Our Guest restaurant” is sitting in a French Village, complete with Gaston’s Tavern. I bet based on the layout of this and the moat surrounding, the restaurant will be in the Beast’s castle and the interior will be the ballroom from the film. Same with Cindy and Aurora – complexly themed meet and greets. I don’t mind this if they’re done on a deserving huge scale. Meeting characters in a circus tent is one thing, meeting all of them in a vastly themed space can be an attraction in and of itself.

    And finally…. restoring Adventureland? I feel like I’m dreaming. Sign me up for minimum wage labor, I want to build it myself.

  • Haha sounds good! Like I said, the devil’s in the details. In my mind I can picture something very Dorothea Redmond and it’s quite excellent… if they go the nine yards on this one it’ll be something very nice.

    You’re so right about the B&TB layout – I hadn’t noticed that. Maybe they are using the DLP idea. That would be brilliant.

    In any case, it’s bound to be an improvement, and far more extensive than I expected before. And man oh man… Adventureland? Talk about exceeding expectations! I never, ever imagined they’d ditch the carpets. If that’s true… wow.

  • If there’s even a kernel of truth in this schematic, I’ll be a very happy man. Especially if that verschluggeneh Flying Carpets eyesore gets yanked from Adventureland.

  • Oh, and on the subject of water features, as I said a while back over at Foxxfurr’s “Passport To Dreams New and Old” blog, I really like the idea of crossing flowing water, especially into more fantastic realms, as it is a symbolic crossing of a threshold, and as such, lets you wash away daily concerns and stubbornly-clung-to ideas, and truly enter a realm of fantasy. I think, if they stick to the idea of having the water features everywhere it’ll be very refreshing and a definite enhancement to the land, even if only subliminally.

    Though, I must admit, it does seem odd that Dumbo would be relocated so far from its current site, though if they feel compelled to “do it properly” I can see why it would move. Especially to tie it into the WDW railroad…the more I think about it, the more sense it makes, thematically.

  • Dan

    Am I missing Small World or is that located below where the draft ends? Agreed, this is still not close to what has been done in Anaheim more than a decade ago, but would be a good start. It took awhile, but the arm and wand was removed from Spaceship Earth, hopefully those flying carpets will vanish from Adventureland soon.

    Great Post!

  • @Dan, IaSW is just to the west of Pinocchio’s Village Haus, at the far right of the blueprint. Most of the construction here, if I’m reading the schematic correctly, would go on the former sites of 20,000 Leagues lagoon and Mickey’s Toontown Fair, with Dumbo being relocated.

  • er…and by far right I of course mean far left…

    I blame the booze.

  • Tim

    I think it all looks great, however there would be more that i would want. An alice in wonderland mini type land would be great. 3 parks already have more than one alic themed establishment. And then a pinocchio ride would make an excellant addition. I would find it a bit akward if snow white’s scary adventures would be on the other side of the park away from the coaster. And then it looks like theres two or 3 resturants themed to beauty and the beast. Unless it is one big resturant, thats overdoing it. Im not sure they really even need a belle attraction in the park with such an extensive dinner show, but a unique attraction would be good. And whats with this about the cinderella ride, doesnt she already have a carousel. I think the sleeping beuaty area is clever since a ride has never been done. The ride could almost be like an extensive ferris wheel illustrating the scenes, but indoors. Just an idea, but it would go nicely with the spindle themeing. Now for thinking of the overall disney world resort, voyage of the little mermaid along with beauty and the beast at DHS would need to close forcing them to find replacement shows. It would make no sense to have an extremely similar show and an attraction at two different parks. Now for dumbo, i think two is a clever idea since the ride always seems to have crazy waits. One of the best ideas yet! And The castle wall will hopefully be gorgeous and make this the best themed fantasyland yet.

    One more thought unrelated to fantasyland is that the indy cars are still in tomorrowland. Why not just rid the park of these already! Oh well

  • Tim

    Just thought of somethin else, hb rupunzel and the princess and the frog. These movies will have no room for any recognition, and personally i think something should be set aside for them if they become as memorable as others. Theres certainly alot of diversity but there could be more in fantasyland, like hunchback of notre damn, hercules, and a true alladdin ride.

  • Dan

    speaking of a true aladdin ride, take the soarin’ ride system and make it a magic carpet over agrabah and all of the lands that aladdin and jasmine fly over during ‘a whole new world’

  • Man, think this issue touches a nerve? Traffic has exploded through the roof and this topic is being discussed on every message board. Anyway, from what I’ve heard since I wrote this, it seems that this plan at least VERY closely resembles one of the current plans for the MK. Of course there’s been an explosion of simultaneous rumors (chaff?) for renovations to Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and even – inexplicably – Frontierland. Not to mention people going crazy saying that the Mysterious Island-derived expansion is back on for DAK.

    Rumors, rumors everywhere.

    Anyway, I still wish there was one more quality dark ride in this plan, but it’s still a big improvement. It also looks like all the princess “attractions” are meet-n-greets, with the Belle attraction possibly being a moved version of her storytelling area.

    I agree with everyone that likes the incorporation of more water in the area. It’s seemed really parched since they buried 20K.

    I’m also kinda please to see the near-universal glee across the internets about the carpet removal. Hope they follow through!

    I always thought that there should be a little Cotswold-themed area that could combine Pooh, Alice, and a new Toad. Wee Britain.

    Tim – I am kind of surprised that there’s not some Rapunzel consideration at least. After all, it’ll be out by the time this gets built (if it does!).

  • Another Voice

    Sad to bring reality into this…

    We’re in the middle of Disney’s budget season. Their fiscal year begins October 1st, so the entire summer is spent by every department in the company trying to justify its own existence – and to stave off any attempts to cut funding for next year.

    This is doubly true of WDI these days. Most “designers” are now contract employees. Unless they are assigned to a project, they’re dumped back on the street and end up doing layouts for Taco Bell. So out comes all these bright and shiny wonderful “new” ideas to be dangled in front of Attractions’ management in hopes that a job or two can be saved. A leak here and there to drive public interest (nothing happens at Disney these days unless someone can claim it’s come up during a marketing survey) is seen as part of the process.

    It’s all up to what WDW’s management is willing to pay for. And after seeing the now cancelled ‘Stitch’ show, they don’t seem to willing to pay for much. Worse, as the Disney Studio (the real one) continues in a complete free fall, you know that Iger is going to be running to his Orlando ATM for withdrawals on an unprecedented scale. That additional money is going to come from cuts, not higher revenue. No one from Rasullo on down has shown the slightest hint they truly understand the theme park business – witness the reliance on short term fixes / long term damaging travel business gimmicks like free food and birthday giveaways.

    At best this seems like a little bit of corporate whining: “Mommy gives DCA all the good toys and we don’t get anything”. Perhaps WDW might just be in line for a dip into the corporate capital pool, but I’d really, really wait and see on that. Disney dislikes the theme park business. After investments in California Adventure and now Hong Kong, it’s hard to see where the return Disney could see from ‘Princess Alley’ at the Magic Kingdom stacks up to those projects.

  • I don’t mind the reality at all! In fact, I appreciate it. While weighing whether or not this is all real, I considered that the most likely opportunity is not that this is a shovel-ready plan just waiting for the greenlight, but rather was leaked by WDI staff to drum up some scuttlebutt and support. I hadn’t considered that we’re approaching October 1st, though.

    I’m of two minds about all this. While obviously WDW management has been very, very reticent to spend at all, and profits are more and more dependent on cutbacks rather than revenue, I always consider the option that someone, somewhere has learned their lesson – or maybe one of their godforsaken marketing focus groups has indicated that WDW has gone stale. Even a corrupt, poorly-conceived system will sometimes provide a positive outcome thanks to dumb luck.

    Maybe we’ll just get lucky for once, although I’d much rather have a change in management all the way up the ladder, a complete shift in corporate attitude, for WDI to move away from the short-sighted “contractor” business model, and a general return to fundamentals. But I don’t think I’m *that* lucky.

  • Another Voice

    The parks were originally run by movie people; the business model was very much “show business” driven. Like any theater, the parks knew they had to fresh shows and new excitement to keep people coming back.

    Today, the parks are managed by people with travel business, cruise ship business and retail backgrounds. They aren’t showman (or showpeople); they don’t understand the basic draws of the parks. They only understand it in terms of other businesses and don’t see “Disney Parks” as a unique industry all on its own.

    WED Enterprises was originally created to be the great “show producers”, to sit around and dream up brilliant and amazing shows for the parks to present. The parks themselves were the theater managers making sure that the proper stage was set and the productions ran smoothly.

    That’s reversed today. The parks are operated like a mall; WDI is nothing but a contract management organization to deliver whatever “product mix” the parks and Corporate Management thinks will sell.

    Parks see the world in occupancy rates, sales per square foot, and intervals between visits. They manage the parks like a cruise ship: trying to squeeze additional margins out of the same stores, trying to get the guests to buy the extra drink. The “show business “ idea of attraction more people with an amazing show simply never occurs the Rasullo or his orcs. As for Corporate – the parks are just another sales channel to hock existing franchises – you sell ‘Pirates’ DVDs at WalMart, you hock a ‘Jack Sparrow’ dress-up saloon at WDW…it’s all ancillary revenue to go that PowerPoint slide at the quarterly Aspen “strategy session”.

    Frankly, the only place that still understands the simple fact that “People Go To Disneyland to See Disneyland” is in Tokyo. They still have an emphasis on attracting guests through what the guests can do, rather throwing out discounts and other business gimmicks trying to make it seem like a cheaper entertainment than the alternatives.

    Until the U.S. parks understand showmanship again, I doubt things will change.

  • Himynameis...

    WOW. what was said above about the Disney parks is SO amazingly true.

    Anyway, we do need to learn showmanship and take a lesson from Tokyo Disneyland. sure, they have funding from the oriental land company. Walt didn’t have funding from them, but he still made the original showman’s Disneyland, and he made it amazingly work. We can still do that today. My hope (which has been let down too many times) is the same for every project. It might be a step in the OLD and better Direction for disney parks… so far, it hasn’t been, but hopefully one of these times they’ll get it right (ahem here…) and it will be a great success so that they can realize their mistakes and move back into the old disney parks. (I mean, come on! compare Horizons to Mission Space? haha! No comparison. Horizons wins out every time.)

    good luck disney, I know you can do it!

  • philphoggs

    Very cool… I hope there are no surprises in the peripherals.
    Sooo, what becomes of the “void” when magic carpets is pulled? Ha ha~ don’t shoot the messenger, I’m with you all.. hand out the hammers and schedule the work bees!
    To “another voice”~ love your insights, appreciating also your knowledge of sadly how things work.
    We all have hope tho’!

  • There’s very little that I can add to A.V.’s wonderful and all-too-true comments except to nod and say, “Right On.”

  • Another Voice

    Thanks for everyone comments.

    I should also add that Disney does not think Universal’s ‘Harry Potter’ area will have any impact on the Magic Kingdom. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on the Internets about Disney’s “big response” and these Fantasyland plans. Yes, that was an internal selling point for the designers who want to do something…but none of the suits believe the logic. Disney has never acknowledged that anything Universal has ever done has impacted WDW – anyone looking at the attendance trends when Island of Adventure opened can pretty much see that.

    The area where Disney is vulnerable to Universal is teenagers and young adults. Disney has no interest in go after the mega Halloween event (and they have successfully counter-programmed Universal by going for the whole family), and now, with the closing of Pleasure Island, nighttime entertainment. When WDW lost its honeymoon market, the audience for P.I. became essentially cast members and locals…groups that don’t have large enough wallets for Disney to care about.

    Rather than building attractions to get visitors to WDW, Disney will continue with their tactics to “lock up” people on property. The pricing of multi-day tickets, free dining and Magic Express have worked very, very well. Additional tactics like FastPasses for resort guests and the elimination of single day tickets would counteract any draw the boy wizard would have on guests. Sure, there will be some people that leave for the day, but Disney thinks the costs of keeping those guests (like building new, good attractions) outweighs the revenue lost.

    And the future of the “Fairy” franchise is pretty much in the air. It’s been a colossal failure from Disney’s point of view, both in terms of overall sales and in building a chain of franchises that “grow” with girls (Princess for the little ones, graduating to fairies in elementary school into the Disney Channel starlets during junior high school). Unless there a major success with a ‘Fairies’ DVD release (if they make another), it would be hard to see WDW dumping capital into a failed franchise (when there’s so much ‘Nemo’ left to exploit!).

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