Excitement about the Fantasyland Expansion at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has been reawakened in the wake of D23 announcements about the Dwarven Mine Train and images of the Fantasyland model on display at the event.
The Disney parks blog posted a video of the lush, updated model of Fantasyland, giving guests a taste of what they can expect as the new area of the Magic Kingdom opens in phases in fall 2012 and spring 2013.
All of that is wonderful – but how is the work on the ground actually progressing? As with any construction project, it’s not as pretty as the models and CG fly-throughs, but correlations between the models and the work on the ground are becoming apparent, along with a few details that the models don’t render as well.
Located at the far left, or “back” of the expansion, to the right of Pinocchio Village Haus, the Beast’s castle was one of the first parts of the expansion to be completed, largely because its forced perspective perch made it one of the first things visible to guests wandering through the existing Fantasyland. The area around it is, however, looking increasingly polished. The rock work is being finished up, and, although it’s a small detail, the continuation of the forced perspective in the sizes, shapes, and colors being used in the rock is testament to Disney’s precision.
Maurice’s cottage, which will house a special meet and greet with Belle also continues to take shape. The meet and greet, mentioned in the Parks & Resorts D23 presentation will be a 45 minute show. Belle will welcome guests into Maurice’s cottage, and then tell them a story. The story will involve guest interaction; visitors will “act out” the events of the story. As they do, the cottage will transform into the Beast’s library in front of guest’s eyes. Belle will be assisted by a state of the art animatronic Lumiere whose movements will reflect new innovations in animatronics. Although it is not confirmed, rumors also suggest that Lumiere may be a new style of “interactive” animatronic, perhaps integrated with technology similar to that of Turtle Talk or Monsters Inc that would allow the “character” to respond to Belle and to the guests in spontaneous ways.
Further down the construction walls, opposite Winnie the Pooh, Voyage of the Little Mermaid is taking shape. Although the shape of Eric’s cliffside castle is clearly visible, it is not yet complete and painted like its beastly counterpart. What is clearly visible, however is the elaborate rockwork facade for the attraction. Unlike its California counterpart, the Walt Disney World version of the ride building will be organic, creating the coastline of Eric’s kingdom. Note how different the shapes are here when compared to the Beast’s castle. Instead of vertical snowy, rocky peaks, the layers of brown stone are far more horizontal, with carefully placed bits of green.
A lot of current activity seems to be centered in front of the Mermaid facade, where the newly promoted Dwarven Mine Train coaster will be located.
Heavy equipment and supplies are centered in this area, and workers seem to be pouring/laying in foundation for the proposed mine train ride structure. Replacing two princess themed areas proposed in the original Fantasyland roll out, the mine train coaster will focus on the story of the Seven Dwarves from Snow White (evidently a trend, considering Disney’s proposed Order of the Seven film, which will do the same thing in a far different way). The coaster is targeted as a “transition coaster.” It is intended to be more intense than the Great Goofini (the rethemed Barnstormer), but less thrilling than Big Thunder or Space Mountain. With the innovative ride car system, however, it looks a bit more thrilling than originally advertised. As shown in the D23 video, the cars on the mine train will be individually suspended from a central pivot, swinging freely from side to side as the coaster careens across the Dwarves’ forest, through their cottage, and plummets into their mine. Disney promises the coaster will also whip guests past tableaux of scenes from the film as well as integrating the landscape and mine into the ride experience.
Last but not least, Storybook Circus is also taking some shape. Past the Tomorrowland speedway, the steel girders that will become the double Dumbo ride are still stark outlines against the sky. The circus tents from Toontown currenly appear relatively unchanged, and in need of a new coat of paint. The new D23 model of Fantasyland seems to confirm earlier speculation that the Dumbo rides will indeed rotate over a ring of water, much like the new Jasmine’s Flying Carpets at Tokyo Disneyland. No word has been released on when the current Dumbo ride will be relocated, and at the moment, it seems that Storybook Circus may be part of one of the later phases of Fantasyland to open to the public.
So what do you think of the new information and construction? What portion of Fantasyland will open first? Are you pleased with the way things are looking on the ground?