By Bill Burke
Q: There’s a lot of construction going on in the Magic Kingdom. What’s up and how is it going to affect my vacation? – Adam Powers, St. Augustine, Fla.
A: In two years time, you won’t even recognize Fantasyland.
The Fantasyland project, currently under way, is the single largest expansion to the original Walt Disney World theme park since the resort opened in 1971.
As of right now, the walls are up, certain attractions are down, and signs of the massive project are everywhere. Phase one is schedule to be completed in 2012, with the whole project complete the year after.
Here’s a look at what guests can expect in the newly-expanded Fantasyland:
\Guests will be able to have more immersive encounters with Disney princesses in each of their own themed villages within Fantasyland Forest.
- At Dreams Come True with Cinderella, guests can meet Cinderella face to face in her country chateau, share a dance or train to be a royal knight.
- At a Birthday Surprise for Sleeping Beauty, guests will be able to take part in a surprise birthday party with the princess.
- An “enchanted mirror” will move guests from Belle’s father’s cottage to Beast’s castle for a storytelling performance. (This will replace Storytime with Belle near Tomorrowland, which has already been shut down.)
* Also, the new district will feature the Be Our Guest Restaurant, one of three dining rooms inside Beast’s castle. And just outside the castle in Belle’s Village will be Gaston’s Tavern (though the “tavern” will be dry – the Magic Kingdom is a dry park), another themed eatery.
* Taking the place of the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction will be “Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid” attraction.
* Dumbo fans, fear not. When all is said and done, Dumbo’s Flying Circus will provide twice the size of the classic attraction. Inside a stylized tent, guests will enjoy midway games and other fun-filled experiences while waiting in line. Because if you want to ride Dumbo, you gotta wait in line.
The expansion is going to render the face of the current Fantasyland unrecognizable, but it should improve the historically stroller-choked bottleneck immeasurably.
Ground was broken last spring. Stand almost anywhere in Fantasyland and guests can see the tips of colorful circus tents poking up over the construction walls.
How’s it going to affect your trip? Say goodbye to Toontown, which will be absorbed into the Fantasyland Forest. Meet and greet opportunities that had taken place in Toontown will be moved to the Exposition Hall near the front of the park. Goofy’s Barnstormer, currently located in Toontown, will survive the wrecking ball.
The Pooh-themed play area that was once located adjacent to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (closed for refurb at press time) and Ariel’s Grotto have already been closed. The remaining classic Fantasyland attractions will be untouched, according to Disney.
While it’s not expected to be completed until 2013, there are improvements already in place. A new queue area in front of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was recently unveiled, featuring a vastly-improved experience. If this is a measuring-stick gauging how the new Fantasyland will one day look, the future seems quite bright.
Disney also released a giant caveat to all these plans: They reserve the right to change their mind at any time. In other words, compare this list to the final product and it may not match-up.
Still, Walt Disney himself was always pushing his people to continue “plussing” the park – continuing to improve and change things. And this huge, unmatched expansion is the best example of plusing the World has seen in years.
Bill Burke is the author of “Mousejunkies: Tips, Tales and Tricks for a Disney World Fix.” His follow-up guide to Walt Disney World is due out this spring. Visit Mousejunkies.com.
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