by Caitlin Corsello
With New Fantasyland officially opening this past week, I thought it would be great to share some experiences and pictures from my recent trip to Walt Disney World when I was able to explore the area twice. When complete, the new expansion will include four separate areas: Belle’s village, Ariel’s castle, Big Top Circus, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Right now, everything except the Mine Train is open and the final component is set to debut in 2014. New Fantasyland is a visually spectacular place with some of the most immersive queues I have ever experienced. What particularly struck me was the vast attention to small details, making even the most understated props and buildings seem intricate and beautiful. So let’s explore New Fantasyland!
When first entering through the new castle walls, you will find Belle’s village on your left. Enchanted Tales with Belle is the first attraction you will encounter and it involves an immersive experience taking guests directly into the story of the day Belle fell in love with the Beast. You start off waiting on the queue outside of Belle’s childhood cottage. As you enter, there are great details including a handwritten chart indicating Belle’s height over the years, a portrait of Belle as a child with her mother, and books scattered everywhere. You then progress into Maurice’s workshop which is full of small projects and objects that add a great sense of theme. However one object seems out of place. A Cast Member will soon inform you that a large ornate mirror on the wall was not made by Maurice, but was actually a gift from the Beast to help Maurice magically transport himself to the castle to visit Belle at any time. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who is looking forward to experiencing the attraction in the future, but the effects in this room are truly magical! You soon find yourself inside Beast’s castle where the Wardrobe is waiting to help assign parts in the story of Belle falling in love with the Beast. Audience members are requested to act out certain parts and chosen to participate in the show. After deciding upon the cast, you proceed into the library where you are greeted by Lumiere and prepare yourselves to surprise Belle. The cast then helps to act out the story creating a great live interaction performance that leaves everyone smiling.
Proceeding past Enchanted Tales with Belle, you will encounter Belle’s village complete with Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts. Be Our Guest Restaurant is a gorgeous space open for quick service lunches and table service dinners. It is also the first restaurant to serve alcohol in the Magic Kingdom during the dinner hours. What struck me the most about the restaurant were the massive statues surrounding the main entrance. These statues are massive and intimidating, however the perfectly set the tone for the dramatic and gorgeous main dining room inside the restaurant. Unfortunately since I visited during previews the restaurant was not open yet, so I was only able to get a glimpse of the main dining room, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. I can’t wait to go back in the future and actually be able to dine there! Gaston’s Tavern is rich in detail including Gaston’s very own giant chair which is available for a fun photo op. One of my favorite details from Gaston’s is a dart board displaying just how well Gaston does in the game, especially versus LeFou! Over in Bonjour! Village Gifts you can find merchandise unique to this area of the Magic Kingdom featuring imagery from Beauty and the Beast. Keep your eyes peeled for a portrait of Phil Holmes as well! Perhaps my favorite detail of the entire village is a popcorn stand located on the far right hand side, almost near Ariel’s castle. The popcorn cart is appropriately names Maurice’s Amazing Popping Machine and adds another great level of detail enhancing the area.
As you continue on, you will next encounter Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid, the newest Fantasyland dark ride. The entrance to the attraction features the bow of Prince Eric’s ship with Ariel posed on the edge of it. Upon entering the queue, I was completely taken aback by the beautiful details and imagery used to portray the tropical areas surrounding Prince Eric and Ariel’s castle. Once you start walking the queue, you’ll quickly be aware of just how long it is, Disney is definitely preparing for some massive lines for this attraction! Throughout the queue there is an interactive game involving a blue crab which will have guests choosing objects which do not belong in certain scenarios (while also helping to cope with the long waits!). The second to last area of the queue features Scuttle interacting with the waiting guests and indicating that Scuttle is going to narrate your journey through the attraction. As you board the ride, you will notice that you are riding in pink seashells which reminded me greatly of the clams that you ride in on The Seas with Nemo and Friends. The attraction then proceeds to take you on an abbreviated journey through the story of The Little Mermaid. The effect which I enjoyed the most was the simulation of actually diving down into the water to first experience under the sea. You really do feel as though you have submerged yourself and quickly become fully immersed in Ariel’s world. The animatronics on this attraction are all beautiful and the most spectacular scene is the massive “Under the Sea” room which features countless fish and seas creatures all singing and dancing to the classic song.
Located directly across from Under the Sea is the construction site for The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. While the construction is clearly visible from the footpaths as it is going to be a massive attraction, it is hard to clearly grasp what areas of the structure are going to be what. On my second visit to New Fantasyland, you could clearly see several pieces of track tucked into the structure, but it was still difficult to imagine the greater picture. Looks like I will have to wait until my next visit to see more progress and until 2014 to actually get to experience the attraction!
Continuing on to the former site of Mickey’s Toontown, you will find Big Top Circus featuring Dumbo The Flying Elephant, The Barnstormer, and Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. As you pass through the main entrance into Big Top Circus, you will immediately feel fully immersed in the circus environment as you are surrounded by brightly colored tents of all sizes and beautiful white popcorn lighting. On your left is Big Top Souvenirs, a massive store located inside a tent featuring merchandise exclusive to Big Top Circus and all kinds of circus related food and snacks. On your right, Dumbo will be the first attraction encountered and it looks spectacular with the new addition of a second spinner residing over fountains. Particularly at nighttime, this attraction is visually satisfying with different color projected lights. The Barnstormer is still structurally the same roller coaster it formally was, however it has been re-themed as belonging to the Great Goofini. Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station offers a great chance for little ones to get completely soaked…I mean, cool off on those hot Florida afternoons. The area features several carts home to animals which squirt water at those looking to play in numerous inventive ways. Located just past Casey Jr. is the new Fantasyland Train Station for the Walt Disney World Railroad, housed in a beautiful classic brick building. Also located in Big Top Circus is Pete’s Silly Sideshow where you can meet your favorite Disney characters in their own versions of circus costumes.
As you can see, New Fantasyland is not only massive but also features several different areas that are unique in their own ways. From Belle’s charming French village to the tropical beaches of Ariel’s world to the heart of a classic circus, you will love the sights, sounds, and experiences to be found in New Fantasyland! I was so thrilled to be able to experience the area during its preview period, and I can’t wait to return again once everything in the new land is fully open.
What are you most excited to experience in New Fantasyland? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!