It’s been kind of busy on the news front lately.
In fact, there have been a series of minor revelations about changes both expected and not, and the online Disney realm seized accordingly. A rather hit-and-miss record in the parks over the last fifteen years has left fans somewhat shell-shocked, and that can make things a little touchy when beloved attractions are altered without a heads-up. It also means announcements are meet with a skepticism that would previously have been unheard of. This leads to some interesting conversations.
First thing’s first. Following the closure of Toontown Fair, bulldozers have swooped in to clear the way for Storybook Circus. Mickey’s house has been demolished; check it out courtesy of this video by Jeff Lange:
You have to wonder why they’ve left the construction fence completely devoid of artwork or signage, leaving the poor conductor to improvise something that will keep people in their seats while the train is watered. You might also notice that the recorded narration in the train mentions the return of the Barnstormer. While we knew that the existing kiddie coaster would be retained for the new area, to this point the re-themed attraction has been referred to only as “The Great Goofini.” Apparently the Barnstormer franchise is just too vital to lose, as the full name of the refurbished attraction will be The Barnstormer Starring Goofy as The Great Goofini. Succinct, right?
Apparently WDI is trying to set up some battle royale between their beloved characters over who will lay claim to the mantle of “Great”, as judged by this concept art for the new meet-and-greet for Mickey in the old Main Street Exposition Hall:
Yay – more angular people with genetic abnormalities aggressively enjoying themselves. A kid standing on a trash can. Another apparently vogueing. Others flat-out sprinting towards the building – why are you sprinting if you have a Fastpass? And what’s the weird spectre looming on the second floor?
This rendering accompanies Disney’s announcement that the new Mickey meet-and-greet will utilize the Fastpass system for booking encounters with the characters. The building, formerly used for the Gulf Hospitality House, the Walt Disney Story, and a preview center for future attractions, has had its vintage infrastructure torn out so that the facility can be reconfigured as the Town Square Theater. It’s unknown if there will actually be any theater left – one of the two former Walt Disney Story auditoriums is currently used to screen classic Disney animated shorts – as the meet-and-greets will be themed to Mickey’s backstage dressing room. It sounds that very little will be left of the building’s past; the fairly famous character mural, painted by the great Disney artist Bill Justice, has already been destroyed.
The new meet-and-greet will feature an interactive standby queue to entertain those not using Fastpass to reserve time with the characters. Also note that Disney takes pains to state that Main Street is Mickey’s “new permanent home” – looks like he’s here to stay! So now we have the Town Square Theater (which may or may not have a theater) and the Main Street Cinema (which doesn’t actually show movies anymore).
Meanwhile, there’s the Haunted Mansion, where a massive queue redesign is underway. Pictures of the work can be found online, and reveal a number of references to obscure Mansion lore from the Sea Captain to Phineas Pock. It works in theory, but the brief glimpses we’ve seen really concern me that this new interactive queue is going to be way too on-the-nose. The pipe organ player’s crypt is shaped… like a giant pipe organ. With skulls coming out of the pipes. Just like in the ride! And the Sea Captain’s crypt has a bronze statue of a sea captain drowning! Right on the crypt! I know that I personally plan on having my cause of death commemorated in life-sized recreation on my own tombstone.
I know this is all nitpicking, but the more cartoony the attraction’s entrance becomes, the less effective it will be. The Mansion is great because it starts off as this mysterious, abandoned house – where nothing is obviously amiss but where there is an atmosphere of forboding. Slowly that unravels, and by the time Leota has her seance things go berserk. I’m not keen on scattering the queue with wackiness – especially wackiness that steals the thunder of the show’s original gags.
Yes, yes. Nitpicking.
The other big event on the Mansion front came a few days ago when, with no prior announcement, the “hitchhiking ghosts” segment was covered up and replaced with rather… inelegant… digital projections of the ghosts. Take a look, via Inside the Magic:
Word has emerged that this is only a temporary fix while the animatronics that usually inhabit this area are refurbished, but without any prior announcement from Disney the change caused widespread panic. In this atmosphere of change, with interactivity being added to the queue and “NextGen” on the way, I think that people had horrific visions of bad CGI projections interacting with the guests who had shelled out $85 extra for the magic NextGen RFID wristband. Thankfully, though, it appears that the animatronics will indeed return – the effect used for this scene since 1971 gives the ghosts a wonderfully dimensional and tactile appearance that projectors would be unable to achieve.
There’s one last thing we should mention while we’re at the Magic Kingdom. We’ve all continued to wonder what’s happening to The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Managment since its fire last month. We’ve rooted, of course, for a return to the original show, but while Disney has neglected to reveal their plans a June re-opening appears to be on the cards. This has led most to assume that the Under New Management show will return as-is, but we’ve been told that Disney has not ordered a new Iago animatronic to replace the one that burned. This would preclude a mere restoration of the existing show, but what will appear instead is anyone’s guess. The original show? A hybrid of the two? Additional fuel for these rumors was added last week when one of the animatronics from the pre-show was removed; this could mean anything from mere repair work to something more significant. It would be nice to hear from Disney on this matter, but at least we still have a glimmer of hope that the terrible Under New Management show has gone the way of the dodo.
So that’s what’s happening at the Kingdom… for now. There are still rumors as to what happens next after the Fantasyland expansion – whether big things will be afoot for Tomorrowland or Frontierland – but that’s a story for another day. In the meantime, if you hear something, say something!