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Fantasyland 2.5

Now officially known as New Fantasyland, the expansion has seen many changes

Ending months of online speculation, Disney took the opportunity of a recent Parks and Resorts press event to reveal a number of changes to the previously-announced expansion of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland area. Prompted by criticism of the earlier plan’s heavy focus on character “meet-and-greets”, the so-called “New Fantasyland” unveiled last week will incorporate a new attraction that hearkens back to Imagineering proposals predating the expansion’s announcement in September of 2009.

The plan, as originally announced, centered on areas themed to various animated features. The Little Mermaid would be represented by a new dark ride and a meet-and-greet location for Ariel, while Beauty and the Beast inspired the Be Our Guest restaurant, Belle’s village featuring Gaston’s Tavern, and an interactive experience in Belle’s home called “Enchanted Tales with Belle”. Other interactive meet-and-greets took place in a French chateau from Cinderella and Aurora’s cottage from Sleeping Beauty, and a new photo location was also included for Winnie the Pooh. The original Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction would be relocated and doubled in size with the addition of a second spinner; it was also to recieve a large, indoor interactive queue. Adjacent to Dumbo was the re-themed Barnstormer coaster, and while that attraction’s new theme was not announced at the time, a subsequent article in Disney’s official twenty-three magazine revealed that it involved circus clowns.

Angular people aggressively enjoy a scene from Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid

The vaguest element of the plan, as announced in 2009, was its second phase which would add a “Pixie Hollow” area based on the direct-to-video Tinkerbell films. Pixie Hollow, which would appear as an oversized forest, would, along with the relocated Dumbo attraction, occupy the current site of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. That land, which originally opened as the allegedly “temporary” Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988, would finally be demolished to make way for the Fantasyland expansion. Disney executives were reluctant to commit to any details about Pixie Hollow at the time of its announcement; at the D23 Expo in 2009, they practically admitted that the plans were unfinished and subject to change. This area seemed to also focus on a character meet-and-greet, but hints persisted that Imagineers were working on some sort of larger interactive experience or perhaps even a small dark ride. Pictures emerged last year of a scale model of Pixie Hollow that incorporated a carnival ride similar to Mater’s Junkyard Spin which will debut in Anaheim as part of the California Adventure “Carsland” expansion in 2013.

Yet almost as soon as these plans were announced, they began to change. The intentional vagueness with which Disney had described Pixie Hollow led many to believe that its plans were far from concrete, and during 2010 rumors began to emerge that the area had been the first to be cancelled as Imagineers began to reconsider and retool the Fantasyland plans. Soon the rumors claimed that much larger changes were afoot, and that the maligned meet-and-greets had been scrapped. It became obvious that something was afoot when Disney began to intentionally leave the meet-and-greets and Pixie Hollow out of their public discussions of the expansion, when concept art appeared in the parks for everything but these areas, and when construction began in earnest for the Little Mermaid attraction and Belle’s restaurant but the rest of the site sat noticeably fallow.

Angular people aggressively enjoy Bonjour! Village Gifts in Belle’s village

“Insiders” on message boards claimed that plans were definitely changing; said to be safe were the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast areas, which had been well-received and were already under construction, as well as the “Dueling Dumbos” spinner and queue. Money from the cancelled Pixie Hollow, it was said, would be combined with the budgets for the now-aborted Cinderella and Aurora meet-and-greets to fund a new attraction. As the year passed, the rumors became more specific, until these supposed insiders had provided a slew of specific details about the new attraction and the reconfigured plan. Perhaps surprisingly for this internet age, the rumors turned out to be absolutely true.

Cinderella’s chateau from the original expansion plans has disappeared, to become…
The sprawling Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride

The centerpiece of the new plans will be the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a combination dark ride and mild roller coaster that will occupy the large plot formerly earmarked for the Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Winnie the Pooh meet-and-greets. With Snow White moving into these new digs, the current Snow White’s Scary Adventures dark ride will be closed to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall, where the various characters left homeless due to the reconfigured plans will be relocated for a centralized meet-and-greet location.

The dark side of the expansion: The Princess Fairytale Hall takes over Snow White’s Scary Adventures. At least the gaunt angular people are aggressively enjoying it!

The Seven Dwarfs attraction, which Disney describes as “a rollicking, musical ride into the mine ‘where a million diamonds shine,'” was actually part of New Fantasyland rumors that predated the 2009 expansion plans. Reported here in 2008 after stories appeared at Blue Sky Disney and elsewhere, the family-friendly ride disappeared into obscurity when it didn’t make it into the official announcement. Thankfully it made a return when it became apparent that more traditional attractions were needed in the park.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine train – the exciting new addition to the Fantasyland plans

After moving to its new site between the Barnstormer and Tomorrowland’s Speedway, Dumbo the Flying Elephant will anchor a new “mini-land” now referred to as Storybook Circus. This new theme will tie together Dumbo with a re-themed Barnstormer and Toontown Fair train station; the Barnstormer will retain its aviation angle but will now feature “The Great Goofini” with more circus-heavy theming. The circus approach to the area will attempt to blend these seemingly disparate attractions while setting them apart from the obviously unrelated fairytale trappings of Fantasyland proper. It will also allow Disney to retain the garish circus tents of Mickey’s Toontown Fair, which were originally slated for demolition to make way for Pixie Hollow but which will now, at least temporarily, be either refurbished or replaced until Imagineering decides upon future plans for the area.

The Barnstormer, now featuring “The Great Goofini”, will aggressively entertain angular people everywhere…
…while their angular friends and family aggressively enjoy the new interactive queue area for Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Also depicted in the new concept art is a water play area in the middle of the expansive circus area. The water feature is themed to the Casey, Jr. train from the film, but as that theme is also being used for a snack cart elsewhere in Storybook Circus, this might merely be an instance of artistic license in the concept art. We had spotted Casey, Jr. in art that was displayed at the 2009 D23 Expo, and when asked afterward about the possibility of Disneyland’s classic Casey Jr. Circus Train coming to the Magic Kingdom, Imagineers said that it might appear in some form. Now, for the time being at least, Casey will take the form of a quick service dining location.

A peek at the larger rendering shows a water feature in Storybook Circus theme to Casey Jr., as well as a remodeled railroad station to replace the Toontown Fair station
This rendering of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, originally shown in 2009, depicts the Casey Jr. themed food stands to the right

So now that we know what the plan will look like, what is the time frame for all these changes? With the “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid” and Beauty and the Beast areas already underway, we can expect to see them come online sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. Toontown Fair will close on February 11th to go under the knife; once it has been cleared and sent to that great scrapyard in the sky we can expect Dumbo to shut down for his relocation. We don’t have any timeline yet for the rest of the Storybook Circus changes, including a re-themed and re-opened railroad station. The last of the new attractions, the Seven Dwarfs ride, has no announced timeline but I doubt we’ll see it before 2014.

The big mystery is what will happen after these changes take place. Some say the idea to replace the current Snow White dark ride with a princess meet-and-greet location is only temporary; the first rumors about the new Fantasyland called for Snow White’s Scary Adventures to be replaced by a new attraction, but it’s unknown if that’s still in Disney’s plans.

So I know what you’re dying to know is what I think of these plans. Well, I like them. Certainly more than the earlier plans, and I even liked those despite their attraction-light nature. I’ve always seen the Fantasyland expansion as a very necessary place-making opportunity, and even aside from the Mermaid attraction I felt it would bring a new sense of vitality to the landscape. Ever since the closure of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Skyway, Fantasyland has lacked critical visual elements of motion, water, and greenery as well as the “back wall” to the area that the sub lagoon’s rockwork and palm trees used to provide. The result was that everything north and east of the Carousel felt flat, exposed and desolate. Even if it did nothing else, the expansion promised to add some variation to the terrain, some moving water, and a lot of greenery.

Of course, it is better to have something to do amidst all that greenery so the addition of a new attraction is welcome. There are many in the fan community that are upset the loss of Snow White’s Scary Adventures, but for whatever reason I simply can’t be bothered to care. The ride, which received a major overhaul in 1994, had been greatly changed from its bizarre 1971 incarnation and had the distinction of being the least interesting dark ride in what is probably the fourth-most-interesting Fantasyland in the world. I can’t really get riled up about Snow White getting a major upgrade in ride quality, even if I’m not thrilled about any attraction being replaced with a meet-and-greet. We can only hope that situation is temporary – and not a Mickey’s Birthdayland type of temporary. The fact remains that even with the expansion Florida’s Fantasyland lags far behind its California counterpart in terms of attractions, and it’s unfortunate to have a show building used for something besides a ride when the Magic Kingdom is still missing Disneyland’s Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, and Mr. Toad rides as well as the Storybookland Canal Boats and train.

The addition of castle walls that will set the traditional “medieval faire” areas of west Fantasyland apart from the new Fantasyland Forest and its themed areas should create a nice sense of space, and if the wonderful new queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is any indication, it should all be visually quite appealing.

The real concern, for me, is Storybook Circus. In the original plans this was a much smaller area around the Dumbo spinners, but with the cancellation of Pixie Hollow the circus has taken over a much larger footprint. The announcement is vague – what will go in those old Toontown circus tents? – but it’s clear that the circus theme will be very prominent.

Original Fantasyland concept art showed Pixie Hollow and a small circus area occupying the former Toontown Fair location
The new plan, with Storybook Circus, ditches Pixie Hollow in favor of a much, much larger circus

I feel like this is a problem. It’s not really a matter of whether circuses are “relevant”, it’s an issue of whether anyone – and I mean anyone – likes circuses at all anymore? It’s rather ironic, since Disneyland was perhaps one of the biggest factors in the decline of circuses as mass entertainment, but people mostly see circuses anymore as a quick and easy opportunity for some easy punchlines at the expense of dirty carnies and dangerous attractions (not to mention animal rights concerns). Then there’s the issue of clowns; it seems inconceivable today that there was an era in which clowns were seen as whimsical or in any way beloved, and in fact they have become a frequent intense phobia for many. No one wants to run off a join the circus like they did in Walt’s day, so is this an appealing idea for the expansion?

Concept art shows an enormous and prominent marquee for Storybook Circus

In many ways the Imagineers were trapped with this. The idea of creating film-specific areas around each attraction at first led to a circus-themed queue for Dumbo, but then the Barnstormer became an orphaned attraction without land or theme. Instead of ditching that kiddie coaster, they tossed it in with the circus theme. When Pixie Hollow fell through, the circus expanded to include the train station and the rest of the former Toowntown Fair. Imagineers have developed a number of circus-themed attractions over the last fifty years, some of them quite appealing, but perhaps it would be best to hope that they have a trick up their sleeve for future phases of the expansion which will cede the former Pixie Hollow plot for something more inspiring – something really iconic that would anchor that back corner of the park and provide a wienie par excellence.

The new concept art shows that Beast has a new paint scheme – and snow!

But that’s all for the far-too-distant future. For now we can just sit back and watch as Ariel and Belle’s kingdoms slowly – too slowly! – and inexorably creep towards completion. Soon Toontown Fair will mercifully be gone, and the new face of Fantasy will finally be on the way. Thank heavens that, in the end, the bulk of the expansion looks like it will be worth the hallowed real estate it occupies.

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28 comments to Fantasyland 2.5

  • RO93461

    I share the same concern about the Circus, at least as it’s perceived in the real world. Clowns are pretty much feared, not funny. But I suppose the same can be said about other themes that once Disneyfied with characters on the posters, become interesting and taken in a new context by the guest. Boardwalks are pretty seedy today as well, but the hotel is pretty nice as themed and presented. I guess we’ll see if anyone cares.

  • I feel like the new/recycled tents in Dumbo’s Circusland should be utilized for a new show venue. With the Tomorrowland Stich show not living up to expectation, and the old Tomorrowland show (showplace? something like that) gone now, and more meet-and-greets than families will know what to do with, this would open up a good opportunity for new live entertainment venue.

    DHS has Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, DAK has Lion King and Finding Nemo… the Magic Kingdom could catch up by offering something along these lines. Speaking of DHS, I think they should demolish the Little Mermaid show and move the Flying Carpets to that spot in the park. Two birds with one stone….?

  • Frank

    Not of fan of the “angular” people I see.

  • Smaha

    At the very least, these are all steps forward and I’m excited to have more “living” space to enjoy in that section of the park. Everyone with munchkins will enjoy having more shade and places to relax when the inevitable meltdown occurs. Looks like the atmosphere won’t be done on the cheap.

    Why are these areas taking WAY too long to develop? I suppose budgets are an issue, but several YEARS to bring even a 1/3 of the area online seems like an eternity. With nothing else taking shape at the MK in the meantime, I’d think they’d be able to knock out some of these attractions in months, not years.

  • Mike

    Have to agree about the circus theme . . . not a big fan. I would like to see more rides added. It’s a shame that Snow Whites Scarey Adventure is becoming a meet and greet. In the end, it seems like Fantasyland is gaining a net addition of one ride (snow white mine train +Ariel – snow white scrarey adventure). Dumbo is just adding capacity and the Barnstormer is simply being reimagined (poorly in my opinion). Am I missing something? I agree that I’m happy for the larger footprint and themeing, but would have prefered more rides.

  • Great summary of the issues at large. I’m not certain of some circus land, but I was far less certain of what a Pixie Hollow could bring. I’m not against losing Snow White’s Adventures, I’m against losing a dark ride track. Imagine having a dark ride dedicated to Sleeping Beauty, for instance. It was something that originally was imagined for MK when it first opened. That would be a great attraction. Also, if there is space, I wouldn’t mind an extension of the Mad Tea Party. I love the topiary maze found at Disneyland Paris. It would be widely welcomed.

  • beaglelady

    Hey, angular people take up less room (they can be stacked) and you can fit more of them into a ride vehicle. What’s not to like?

  • kerri

    it would have been great to have toy story mania put into the circus themed land.

    please please put alice in the old snow white location. do not waste a good dark ride track. meet and greets are no fun. give us more attractions and classic disney themes! do it right like splash mountain not quick and cheap! and please o please help the old sky ride station it screams use me for something!!!

  • walter

    The land overview still has a new cover for the Mad Tea Party; I wonder if the recent repainting is just temporary.

    Also, it’s too bad they didn’t combine the Fantasyland expansion with a full renovation of Cosmic Ray’s/Speedway concourse of Tomorrowland, as the land boundaries will retain the terrible transition in place since 1971 (unless we eventually get another castle wall separating the two?). Perhaps the site of the Dumbos, with the back of that huge circus tent abutting the Speedway, is a clue to the future demise of the Speedway. I can only dream, I guess.

  • I think the circus theme doesn’t have much to do with Disney.
    He is missed a possibility of expansion to make use of a circus tents already installed on the site.
    The rest of expansion is good, but I think it should have done something more intecionado in the area of the circus, so I read in several forums, no one has liked this addition to.
    I agree totally with MIke, Dumbo is just adding capacity and the Barnstormer is simply being reimagined (poorly in my opinion). Am I missing something too?.
    Please rethink over the area, yet you are in time.
    I would prefer even to remain Toowntown Fair, and of course the Pixie Hollow Land, which put a circus tents, which possibly used as a restaurant or shop.
    Sorry for my English is not my language.

  • philphoggs

    Dudes, no one has brought up the County Bounty, large possibly to be circus themed retail shop that can’t disappear. Thats a great point I heard elsewhere, and I think it’s pretty valid in that it goes a long way in explaining the expanded circus theme with cut backs in other areas.
    But all in all I also have been supportive of this expansion, and the cartoon for the Mine coaster looks great.

  • wes69

    The Dwarf Mine Coaster is an excellent addition to Fantasyland. Where there was only one new ride with Ariel, there is now two. This section of the expansion as the art work presents looks fantastic. Belle’s, Be Our Guest & Gaston’s is like a mini-land similar to Harry Potters. If you added a Beauty & the Beast Ride, it would be like Potters.

    I do have a problem with the Princess meet and greet. It should be put in the old skyway terminal building. A new ride based upon Tangled or Princess & the Frog or Pinocchio needs to take the place of Snow White.

    As for Circus Land, it doesn’t interest me. Rather than put up something on the cheap, an investment that really rocks is needed here. You need an “EE” attraction. Why not create something not found in any of the parks, something unique to Walt Disney World. I would propose a ride similar to Soar’in in technology, but based upon Peter Pan. Pan & Tinkerbell would take guests on a flight from Disney World to Never-Never-land. They would even evade a cannon bombardment by Captain Hook’s ship near Skull Island. This would be a worthy attraction for Fantasyland and would be boy-family friendly. Exiting it, you would walk through a room overlooking Never-Never-Land. Exiting the attraction, one would exit through clouds.

  • Another Voice

    No child today watches ‘Snow White’ and deeply wishes to ride in ore cars.

    More shopping mall rides where the “theme” is simply an excuse for the decorations.

  • Mark W

    @Another Voice

    So… What do children today wish for?? Are you advocating for a High School Musical attraction in Fantasyland?

  • RO93461

    I agree with the poster that mentions a EE. The company is just now coming to the realization that you can spend big money on a animated property and go beyond the small dark ride. The TDL Pooh “wireless” dark ride system is what I had hoped to see in the New F’land to rival the tech of Harry Potter. I think they see Mermaid as that E level of attraction as the price tag is up there. Let’s hope there is enough “wow”.

    DVD has made many of the classic animated properties fresh again and kids know them well from multiple viewings. Snow White is well known as is Sleeping Beauty to todays small fries. The SW Ore Car will likely be welcome as the mine is filled with jewels and will likely be filled with eye candy. My kids loved SW, SB and other films like that and would love the ore care if it’s any good. The “tipping effect” has to make it more than a carny ride. In many cases, it’s not so much the story (as the movie tells it better) as its “world” you want to be immersed in. Alice’s “Wonderland” is like that. Even Mr. Toad is a classic, but I would guess that no one has seen the short subject, but love the reckless driving.

  • Another Voice

    I guess the short answer is ‘Harry Potter’.

    The “magic” of Disneyland is that it lets you experience in “real life” things that you’ve only been able to passively experience through movies, television or books. It’s one thing to sit in a dark theater and watch an image of an actor walk into that old abandoned house, but it’s more thrilling to smell the must in the air, to feel the chill on you face and to see things that you know can’t be real, but there they are.

    Doing that require two major elements – an environment able to create a level of ‘suspension of disbelief’ so that the guest becomes emotional entangled in the events, and a situation that interests the guest so much that they want to come experience it.

    The concept of the dark ride was developed in the middle of the last century. Before most people had televisions, before home video, even before the concept of the mall Cineplex. A three minute journey through tableaus of Disney story was as close as most children got to re-living the movies and that was good enough. But six decades from that – when kids can watch ‘Snow White’ in the back of their mom’s minivan – the old style dark ride is outdated.

    What still exists, however, is the desire to be part of that world, to experience it firsthand rather than as a glowing image. That’s why Universal’s ‘Harry Potter’ area works so brilliantly. Any fan of the books of the movies yearns to taste Butterbeer, to grab their own magic wand and wander the corridors of Hogwarts. The books and movies create a world that people want to see – and Universal delivers that experience to them.

    And that’s the problem with the Fantasyland Expansion. There’s just not a lot driving interest in Disney’s fantasy “world” anymore. Disney Fairies are a flop, the box office for ‘Princess and the Frog’ and ‘Tangled’ was very mediocre (and that’s being generous). Yes, fans on the Internet squeal at the thought of the latest Vinalymation release – but they don’t matter when you need to draw 13+ million people to a swamp in Florida. If the audience can’t be bothered to drive to the mall and see a movie, how do you get them to drop a couple thousand to go to Disney World?

    Creating that “suspension of disbelief” is very challenging. It requires layering in enough information so that at some level some parts of your brain say “this must be real” even while your rationale mind knows it can’t be. As an example, notice how easily you can tell which television show look like they were filmed on a set verses those that seem to have been filmed at a real location. It’s not just a level of “detail” or “themeing” or any of the current Disney buzzwords – it is an art unto itself. It takes skill, talent and resources to pull off. All the elements that Disney seems to discount these days.

    Disney is stuck in a very bad spot right now. Its creative side struggles to create worlds that are popular and strong enough to make people what to see them at theme parks, the parks are unwilling to risk to resources required to create experiences compelling enough to draw people to them. Decorated church carnival ride from great-grandparent era movies just don’t cut it.

  • I was really hoping they’d do an Alice in Wonderland ride… or garden/maze like in France. The Alice ride in CA is by far my favorite fantasyland ride… I really wish they had something similar in FL. I’m perplexed that they even entertained a pixie hollow… really? Although, a never-never land could have been fun :) I really love the idea of the mine train ride… that sounds fantastic! Yay! But I’m with everyone else on the circus theme… clowns? really? Perhaps they’re doing a dumbo remake? :/

  • Mark W

    @Another Voice

    First off, let me just say that I find you one of the most interesting and insightful commenters here and I really think you should have your own blog.

    That said, I think you’re addressing two different issues here and presenting them as one. On the one hand, I complete agree with the your “Imagineering theory” explanation about what types of experiences appeal to today’s generation, and the level of artistry & funding necessary to pull that off. Sadly, the latter is generally lacking when it comes to TDO. That said, I remain cautiously optimistic that TDO could be starting to “get it” and I’m reserving judgment on the TLM and Snow White attractions until they open. I feel like we don’t know enough about either attraction at this point to know how truly immersive they’ll be.

    On the other hand, you’re making (I think) a totally different point about the properties that Disney is filling Fantasyland with. Harry Potter is extremely “hot” right now, and has an extraordinary amount of cross-generational appeal. The only other entertainment property that really has that level of hype behind it at the moment is Twilight. Disney had a very hyped-up franchise with High School Musical, but that’s largely died off at this point. The thing is, if Disney put any of the above into Fantasyland, everyone on this site would be screaming bloody murder (and rightfully so). I think Eddie’s right that kids today have plenty of exposure to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White so as to know what they are, enjoy them, and think of them as their own – I doubt any 9 year old thinks of Snow White as a movie from their “great-grandparents’ era.” All they know is that it’s one of their favorite cartoons to play at home and they love Snow White and/or the dwarves. It may not be as big as Harry Potter, but HP’s luster won’t last forever either.

    I’d rather WDW/WDI concentrate on developing quality, immersive attractions than on having the trendiest brands (and honestly, that’s not something they can control anyway – they’re at the mercy of the Studio). When HP is no longer the “it” thing, IoA will go back to being just another overhyped, almost-as-good-as-Disney park with one very well developed land based on a fading franchise (think DHS with a big budget, immersive Star Wars section).

  • philphoggs

    I guess for the most part Fantasyland has always seemed the least thematically sound due to what it has to encompass, which are the various children’s stories and adventures. That’s why I’ve been supportive of the expansion; it strives to update technically the attractions while expanding on Disney tales, along with an attempt to improve the unifying theme. As far as the circus, well it just seems like a crutch and there is no other support for that. The Mine Train need not be a lame Barnstormer type attraction. Why can’t it be so much more? If Splash Mountain can take Song of the South and Make such a winner, well than that’s what I hope for here. Same could’ve been said for Pixie Hollow, all though I admit I really have no idea what the real plans where there. Certainly better than the hull of an old dark ride.

  • Chaddy

    While I completely agree with and even admire your description of what makes classic Disney rides great, Another Voice, I think your criticism of the new expansion might be misguided. While all the comments I’ve read concerning the MK Fantasyland expansion had quibbles and nitpicks about specifics, yours is the first I’ve read that criticized the project for missing the mark completely. Or am I misunderstanding you?

    You say that there is not alot of interest in Disney’s fantasy world any more. Hence according to you the fantasyland expansion will be a __________??? What, failure? Disappointment, financially/critically? Help me out here. What are you basing that on? You say that attractions based on Mermaids and dwarves are not compelling enough a reason to bring millions of people to, oh what was it now, “a swamp in Florida.” So what exactly is in the swamp now that’s bringing them in? At last check, MK was the highest attended theme park in the world, with attendance stagnating to be sure, but still the highest. Now we Disney fans know that that fact is not a testament to MK’s greatness; it needs work we agree. But now that it’s getting work, lots and lots of it, you criticize park management for failing to create something that will draw people in. I for one have no desire to get drawn into a debate about the alluring merits of the Little Mermaid as a ride in a Disney theme park. It seems to me that people going to a place with ride names like, “Peter Pan’s Flight” or ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” might expect to find a ride based on one of Disney’s most financially and critically successful films.

    But it’s your off hand dismissal of the new attractions as “Decorated church carnival ride from great-grandparent era movies” that I’m scratching my head at most. What about the concept artwork and/or previews makes you feel that? Are you seeing something the rest of us aren’t or are you being a little too cynical about all this. The buzz word going around about the exapansion both in Cali and WDW that I’ve heard is IMMERSIVE, which I believe matches your criteria for a worthy disney ride. And I think my parents would never have had a problem with bringing me and my teenaged sybs to our church carnival if we had something that looked like that there!

    My point is simply this: Ahem, once upon a time, not so long ago, we used to criticize Disney management for building new attractions on the cheap. Or for catering to the interests driven by whatever franchise seems to be selling at the moment. Hence we got a slew of Stitch and High School Musical shows and attactions (on both coasts!)that just didn’t seem to resonate with much of us Disney fans, nor ironically, the general public that these attractions were built to lure into the parks. And now, mercifully the new head honchos of management seem to understand (many of) the mistakes (but not all) made by the previous company leaders. The Fantasyland expansion costs alot more than WDW management has forked over for new attractions in a looooong time, a commendable decision. And it is based largely on films that have been atleast 20 or more years from their original release, a bold move. The project is huge, with a little something thrown in for every age group. I have my critiques too, just as any good fan does. But I cannot bring myself, even on my worse day, to be as pessimistic as you are about something that I believe is designed to make people happy.

  • RO93461

    The one thing to remember is that Fantasyland is only one part of the Magic Kingdom. The MK is only a small part of the WDW property, so when they finally make it to Fantasyland you pretty much know they are pre sold on Disney and are expecting to see those famous characters and worlds from both the past and present. It’s a filter. The ones who are bored with Princesses are at Universal. HP works for me as the whole package is seamless from the beer to the wands. That property also is very broad and Adults are more rabid for it than the kids. F’land is more directly targeted to a younger audience. Could WDI “push the envelope” more with those properties as Universal is doing with HP? Yes, there’s always room for “wow” but when you skew that young you tend to do less. I think that putting a thrill ride into the mix for the sugar rushed is a great move, and Dwarves or not, it will probably be a hit. Moving away from “hanging your hat” on “meet and greets” is smart too, as to me they were always what happened to you between the rides, they never took the place of them.

    As good and appropriate as the new Fantasyland may be, I have to be honest. As an alumnus, I am hoping for the next “how did they do that? ” “Gamechanger” of a ride wherever it may appear, and hope that Universal does not continue to premiere those breakthrough attractions.

  • Wow – there are lots of great comments here, and I’m not sure where to start. Sorry I’ve been absent – I’ve been working on the “refurbishment”!

    There are lots of issues to discuss. First, the circus. One of the things that drives me really crazy is when I see people on other sites talk about Disney “core” themes like the Old West as “dated” and “irrelevant”. My default position is that as long as they’re done right, they can be just as absorbing for guests as anything trendy with “the kids today.”

    But now I find myself making that exact same argument against the circus theme – that it’s irrelevant and dated. I think the difference is that the circus has really become such an intensely joked-about concept in the culture at large. While I don’t really “get” the appeal of clowns, there are people who are literally terrified at the concept and I think that carries over to circuses in general. Of course, as Eddie points out, everything will be passed through the Disney filter of appeal – Disney has made any number of unsavory realities palatable over the years. But still – the fact is, we’re in a climate where anything new is going to be compared to Potter and the lukewarm public opinion of circuses will look even worse in that light.

    Of course, Phil makes an EXCELLENT point about the real reason we’re keeping so much of the circus – The County Bounty store. I never go in there, but apparently it’s one of the MK’s key retail locations. I would imagine the decision to replace Toontown Fair has been a real battle royale, which you consider that Merchandising would not want to give up County Bounty and Entertainment would not want to give up the Meet and Greet tent. I’m sure the “Princess Hall” replacement for SWSA is a sop to them.

    The fact remains, though, that the Circus is the last and most vague part of this project, and the part most easily altered in the future. It’s the sort of vague question mark “TBA” like Pixie Hollow before it. And I’d rather have those tents stay in a holding pattern than have a steel-and-concrete Pixie Hollow built that would be near-impossible to get rid of.

    On the subject of Snow White, I hate to give up ride space to a meet-and-greet. I continue to hope it will be temporary, but still – who knows in this environment. As so many of you have pointed out, there are a number of films that more than deserve a shot at a ride. Some of these are classic (Pinocchio, Alice, Sleeping Beauty) and some are modern (Princess & Frog, Tangled). I don’t really mourn the loss of the old SWSA ride system, because as AV points out it’s very dated. Eddie’s point of the “trackless” system used in Tokyo is spot on – it’s possible to plus a family-friendly mild fantasy ride in a way that brings it into the 21st century without losing its charm.

    As far as “relevance” goes, Fantasyland and Potter are like apples and oranges. Potter has reached a critical mass of cross-demographic popularity that is extremely rare. I could go up to people who NEVER go to theme parks and say, “There’s a ‘Harry Potter Land’ in Orlando” and they’d be off packing their bags. That kind of franchise-specific mania just isn’t possible except maybe at DHS with Star Wars or something like Lord of the Rings (and most likely not even then). You’re just not going to get that in Fantasyland. Nor, arguably, should you. With Disneyland-class parks, I see it as selling an entire experience – an integrated environment. It might not pull in people with no existing theme park interest, but very little will. Instead, it will hopefully create an appealing and immersive environment that looks good, is fun, and(if we insist on looking at this from a perspective of numbers) will increase capacity and spending on merch and dining.

    IOA is obviously catching up with Potter – it’s not really the ride that makes that land, but the combination of the ride, restaurants, shops, landscaping… That’s very old-school Disney. The problem is that Disney parks management has gone in the opposite direction, homogenizing shops and restaurants and the entire experience. If WDI pushes Fantasyland in the opposite direction, it would be a good start.

    Basically it all comes down to what WDI can produce vs. what TDO wants and will keep and maintain. We’ve pretty much seen that TDO is content to run things at a pretty mediocre level, and not push for any real excellent or innovation. Until they “get the message”, it doesn’t matter how many great concepts WDI cooks up.

    Aside from Storybook Circus, I’m a fan of this expansion. As others have pointed out, it at least creates a pleasant environment to enjoy, and adds landscaping and water to a very bleak Fantasyland. Mermaid should be a nice D+ ticket, and the Mine Train is a great addition and should look great. I do think that back in the corner, and in a perfect world, instead of those circus tents there needs to be an EE-class ride as others have stated. And I would make it an entirely new attraction in the Pirates-Mansion vein, and not base it on any film.

    There are lots of other good recommendations here for other B-D tickets to fill out the area. Rides like the Storybook Boats and things like the Alice hedge maze are the connective tissue that make Disney parks special, and what most of the newly-built parks lack.

    A few last comments:

    Ryan – You’re totally right about including a show venue. They should take this opportunity to create a Fantasyland theater, and get all those shows the heck out of the Castle forecourt where they’re an operational and aesthetic nightmare. Seriously, all those shows in front of the castle are a boondoggle and I wish they had their own dedicated venue.

    Smaha – The time it’s taking to develop and build this has also occurred to me. I don’t know that side of the business very well, but I did point out yesterday that the entirety of EPCOT was built in the same amount of time it’s taking them to build the Mermaid ride in Fantasyland.

    Walter – The issue of the Fantasyland/Tomorrowland transition has occurred to me as well, and I don’t know how they’re addressing it. It will be even more pronounced now, as the Dumbo tent will back up directly against the Speedway. Hopefully there’s a plan for this area, as it’s a mess right now. Very ugly.

    One more thing – I forgot to point out that the “fancy” art for the Teacups is still in the new rendering. Hopefully – hopefully! – that’s in the cards as well.

  • And I just saw Eddie’s post from this morning. I miss the days when meet-and-greets were just exciting random encounters while you were out in the park, not an attraction-substitute. I don’t know how or why that change took place, but making them the focus of the parks is like putting the cart before the horse.

    More than the next big E-ticket, which I’m of course not against, I just want Disney to regain that sense of a fully-integrated experience that you see in Potterland.

  • RO93461

    The change took place in a formal way when “Mickey’s Toontown” at DL used the lure of the “meet and greet” with Mickey as a core attraction of a whole land. Operations said that according to guest ratings not enough people could see characters so there needed to be a way for guests to reliably predict when and where they could find them. Guests hated chasing around looking for them randomly to appear. True enough. They wanted to process the experience. The solution was to build a permanent location just to do that and it was in fact an Op’s driven upgrade to DL until WDI Show Quality seized it and transformed it into a land and added Roger Rabbit. There was no real “Big 5″character experience either and Toontown satisfied that, so the notion of building a land based on the “meet and greet” was born. You had Mickey’s house with a queue and a pulsed capacity, so it was in effect a “turnstile”. It also succeeded to draw guests as a “kiddieland” as to tots meeting a character is core to the parents. The only real attraction I can recall like this was the “Babes in Toyland” Village 1961 which was a promo in the Opera House on Main Street with the characters from the film and Mickey in there posing for pictures with the kids.

  • Ron Schneider

    I hope some talented artist create an overlay of the panoramic view of ‘New Fantasyland’ that will show what it’s REALLY going to look like from that vantage point — with the merchandise carts, churro stands, DVC kiosks, smoking area and hundreds of strollers.

  • Haha good point – it would be nice if there were some magical solution for the stroller onslaught. And it would be even better if the UN would mandate the area as a DVC-free zone. Those have gotten increasingly sad over the years; one wonders how many sales they actually make. I just wish they’d go away. Of course I feel that way about the smoking areas too; I always thought it bizarre that one of the MK’s most prominent smoking areas was front and center as you pulled into Toontown Station. Nothing like a big cloud of toxic smoke to welcome you into a magical world.

    Eddie – Thanks for the insight about the character meet and greets. We never really had that problem when I was a kid, as Mickey and Minnie were pretty reliably right out front of the park and other characters seemed to be everywhere. I guess some people just need things spoon-fed to them. I guess it’s just all about different priorities; the characters were always neat encounters to us, but never a driving objective. We were always more concerned about getting to the rides :)

    I think a lot of it also probably involves how the parks are marketed these days. The focus is exclusively on families with young children, and there’s an element of “this is a crucial experience for young children to have and as a parent you are obligated to make it happen.”

  • The Manimal

    I found about the closing of SWSA last week and since then have been pretty depressed about it.
    I know I am going to get “booed” out of the building here but am I the only one wondering where the grassroots “SAVE SNOW WHITE” campaign is?? I have been looking online all week and so far have found nothing.
    2 possible options (which I guess are both true):
    1. People really don’t care about SWSA.
    2. People are really cynical (especially after the whole SAVE TOAD disappoint of 1998).

    I like the the quaint, antiquated dark rides.
    I hope that the mine train will be good but I am just wondering where the heartbreak/rage is??
    Am I the only one?

  • There hasn’t been much of an outcry about it so far, although I’ve seen a few people here and there who are upset about it. Disney’s just gotten very good about hiding these sorts of plans after the Toad debacle really made them look bad, and they’re now masters of hiding the fact that something is going until it’s gone.

    As for why there’s been no organized protest, I supposed it’s probably a combination of both the reasons you suggest. SWSA doesn’t seem to be as beloved as Toad was, and since they’re actually keeping Snow White with the new ride I think most probably view it as an upgrade.

    Anyway, I like the quaint old dark rides too and I hate to see any ride make way for a simple meet-and-greet. I think that after the last 15 years, though, we’re just all kind of inured to it and figure that it could always be worse. Sad, but true.

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