When official plans to update and expand Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland were announced, a ripple of excitement rolled through the Disney fan community. In light of the expansions at other parks in the Orlando area, it seemed the right move for Disney, and there were hopes for exciting things. Some of those hopes were dampened, however, as plans came to light and, inevitably, not every wish came true. The situation was further complicated by rumors that the expansion had been released prior to final approvals, and that Bob Iger was dissatisfied with the plans, considering them too girl centered. So, when an update to the update was announced, it was no great surprise.
But what’s the difference?
Comparing the concept art released on January 18, 2011 with that released a year earlier, many of the same elements are immediately visible. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that much has changed in this “new” iteration of Fantasyland. What are the differences?
Certainly, some elements remain, most with obvious reason, but a closer look at the art reveals a number of changes.
- Beauty and the Beast area – intact
The far right of the Fantasyland map remains unchanged with a large section devoted to Beauty and the Beast. Belle’s cottage is still visible, as is the forced perspective castle, and village area. It is no surprise that this area remained untouched, since it contains 2 eateries, one of them a table service – elements much needed in the Magic Kingdom. Although it is unclear whether Belle will retain her own meet and play “attraction” as originally planned, the Be Our Guest restaurant and Gaston’s Tavern aren’t going anywhere.
- The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Adventure – intact
The headlining dark ride at the back of Fantasyland is also intact. This attraction is intended to be a clone of the Disneyland ride already well along in production. There was never any doubt that Ariel would get the axe; cloning rides is cost effective, and Disneyland’s attraction is far too advanced to cancel at this point.
- Cinderella and Aurora meet and play – gone, replaced by the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
The original princess-centered renovation plans called for a large area dedicated to interactive meet and play attractions with several of Disney’s classic princesses. Rather than the typical existing meet and greet, these areas were intended to be interactive mini-shows, with young people making cards for Briar Rose’s birthday while interacting with the good fairies and visitors getting to witness the magical, sparkling creation of Cinderella’s ball gown. The revision of the area, however, eliminates both those areas, replacing them with a family friendly coaster. According to official descriptions, the vehicles will swing back and forth, and the ride will feature music and animatronic figures from the classic film.
The Mine Train Coaster seems targeted to be a more gender neutral, adventurous offering. It purposely omits Snow White’s name from the attraction title, and offers a “kiddie coaster” comparable to family friendly coasters at Disney’s competitor parks. The proposed area for the train is quite large, including the area occupied by Pooh’s Playful Spot, an area many fans had hoped would be retained.
- FairyTale Hall meet and greet – Added, replacing Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Even with the removal of the princess meet and play areas, there is ongoing acknowledgement of princess popularity. Princess meet and greets are consolidated, but moved toward the front of Fantasyland. Instead of the limited area in ToonTown, the princesses will hold court at the current location of Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Hopefully, the change will allow more princesses to appear at a time, manage lines more effectively, and offer more than just the quick greet and photo currently proffered.
- Pixie Hollow – gone, replaced by the re-theme of ToonTown
The original plan of Fantasyland eliminated Toontown Fair in favor of an elaborately themed area capitalizing on Disney’s Pixie’s franchise. The area echoed some of the ideas of Pooh’s Playful spot, promising a lushly themed play area for kids to work off energy with the added bonus of meeting and playing with fairies. This renovation is completely eliminated. Doubtless it was dubbed too “girly” and the potential crowd and merchandising draw not strong enough to justify the money required to completely renovate the area.
- Storybook Circus (Double Dumbo rides with the Big Top) – Intact
The original plans to double your Dumbo – showing two flying elephant rides featuring a sheltered queue is still in place. The Big Top tent depicted between the rides (a logical feature considering the setting of the animated film) also remains intact, but the new plans specify its purpose. It is billed as featuring interactive family games, a rather general description which could apply to a carnival style set of games of chance or an a set of interactive learning adventures more like those found in areas at Epcot. The former would doubtless be more lucrative for Disney (“win me that…”) and might keep the tent less crowded, but the latter would certainly be more attractive and more in keeping with the spirit of Disney parks.
- ToonTown/ Barnstormer – Intact, re-themed to Circus
The elimination of Pixie Hollow is the largest change in the Fantasyland plans, and with its elimination, Toontown remains, only in a different guise. The re-theming of the area as a circus certainly is cost-effective. Rather than creating a newly-themed area, Disney can simply re-shell and re-purpose an existing area. What remains unclear is why and how that Circus theme will be implemented. The only current detail is the concept art of the re-theme of the barnstormer as the “Great Goofini,” seemingly themed as a 1930s air stunt show. Although the proximity to the Storybook Circus area certainly makes the theme flow, Disney has not yet suggested any story connection or tie-in. Certainly the circus depicted in Dumbo seems to have little to do with the Great Goofini or other elements evidently remaining in Toontown. Only time and further information will tell.
So…comparing the old and new plans for Fantasyland, which is better? Should it have been left alone?