Not since 1971, when it first opened, has there been a construction project of this scale at Walt Disney World. Fantasyland is set to double in size and as we’ve come to expect from Disney, the transformation will be nothing short of magical.
Last week, I had the honor of joining a small group of media behind the construction walls to see first hand how make believe is becoming reality. We were advised that we could not take photos or video once we were behind the wall. Aaaargh!!! So frustrating, because this means I have to rely on my words to convey to you how totally breathtaking this new world will be. And it is breathtaking. Set beyond Cinderella’s walls, you will enter an enchanted forest and find, wait for it, not one but TWO new castles.
Beast’s castle is way off in the mountains, just like in the movie and it will take you days to get there or so it seems. It only seems like it’s miles and miles away because the Disney imagineers were able to use forced perception with rocks, landscaping and backdrops to make it feel that way. No shocker here, once inside the castle, you’ll find the new Be Our Guest dining experience. Every detail from the movie has been lovingly brought to life in the room that Belle and the Beast had their first dance in. Right down to the chandelier.
No word on a talking teapot yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Also, I wonder if the tea cups will be chipped? Hmmm. I think I should be an imagineer, what do you think? Disney, I am available. You know, in case you’re looking. I digress, sorry. Onwards.
The second castle is Prince Eric’s. *sigh* Prince Eric, the gorgeous guy with the place on the water. Some girls have all the luck. Here you’ll find the new Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, based on the ride that is currently at California’s Disneyland.
And there’s so much more. Like Maurice’s cottage, where there will be Enchanted Tales with Belle. And Gaston’s Village, with a tavern and shopping. There is also a unique statue of Gaston and Lefou in the town square. As you would expect, the statue was a gift from Gaston, of Gaston, to the little people of Gaston’s village. Oh that Gaston. Such a humble guy. All of this is set to open by the end of 2012. The final stage, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will open in 2014.
If you’re heading to Disney soon though, don’t fret. Parts of Fantasyland are already open! The new Fantasyland Train station is based on the Carolwood Pacific Railroad which Walt Disney built in his own backyard.
And then there’s Storybook Circus, which holds the rite of passage ride for thousands of children who visit Disney, Dumbo. It has moved in the park and doubled it’s size. Here is the best part though. Children will no longer wait in line. Instead, they will enter an air-conditioned big top where there will be a circus like atmosphere for them to enjoy until it’s their turn to ride. The genius of Disney at work, the wait has now become an experience. Along side Dumbo, there is also Goofy’s Barnstormer and in July 2012, the Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak Station will open.
Finally, here’s a fun bit of trivia for you, straight from an imagineers mouth. Around the Dumbo, Goofy, Casey Jr. area, there are three banana peels set in the cement. So not only can you look for Hidden Mickeys all over Disney, but you can hunt for elusive banana peels left behind by circus workers in Storybook Circus.
At the end of the tour, the imagineers had left me with the look they hope for on all their guests….eyes up, jaws down. And it’s not even done yet! Fantasyland will delight generations to come and I’m thrilled to be able to say, I had a sneak peek. It’s nice to know that although the man may be gone, the dream lives on in the people he inspired.
Pleasantville Note: Looking for a place to stay when you visit? Check out Disney’s latest accomodations, The Art of Animation Resort.