The Spring 2010 issue of Disney Twenty-Three magazine features a huge article on the Fantasyland Forest expansion (as it is now being referred to according to the article), featuring some never before released details on the project. Here are just a few interesting notes from the article that should be arriving in members mailboxes any day now:
-In early 2006, Walt Disney Imagineering’s Eric Jacobson, creative lead for the Walt Disney World portfolio, and members of WDI’s Blue Sky Studio, led by Jon Georges, began brainstorming new E-ticket-like attractions for the Magic Kingdom. Imagineering’s creative leaders quickly determined that a bold reimagining of Fantasyland would have a far greater and longer-lasting impact on the Magic Kingdom experience than any one E-ticket attraction could ever hope to make.
-That physical separation is a stone wall that will lead from Fantasyland proper into a heavily forested realm that will be far more organic and natural than the bricks, mortar, and asphalt of the existing land. “The expansion area won’t be built over the Utilidor,” Eric says, “so we’re able to plant trees and create water features, which we were never able to do with the rest of Fantasyland.”
-The expansion, which has come to be known as Fantasyland Forest, will provide more fully realized homes for such longtime Magic Kingdom residents as Ariel and Dumbo as well as make room for some new additions to the neighborhood, from Belle and east to Tinker Bell and the fairies of Pixie Hollow. And that was part of the Imagineering team’s goal from the beginning.
-“Our anchor is the Little Mermaid,” Jon explains. “The centerpiece of that area is Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, an E-ticket attraction we codeveloped with the Disney’s California Adventure expansion team. It’s a ride-through experience that celebrates the characters and music from the animated classic.” And true to Imagineering’s goal to create the most immersive fantasy environments possible, the attraction is housed in an elaborately and highly detailed rockwork grotto behind a fully rendered version of Prince Eric’s castle from the film.
-The Beauty and the Beast area is composed of three major show elements. The first is Enchanted Tales with Belle, one of three fairy-tale experiences created for Fantasyland Forest. The adventure begins when guests arrive at Maurice’s cottage, where they step through an enchanted mirror and are magically transported to the Beast’s library for an interactive storytelling session with Belle. At the Be Our Guest Restaurant, guests are invited to dine inside the Beast’s castle in one of three fully rendered environments, including a faithful re-creation of the ballroom. And once outside the castle, guests can explore Belle’s Village, an entire corner of the expansion area that includes Gaston’s Tavern.
–Dreams Come True with Cinderella takes place within the Tremaine Chateau from the 1950 film, and A Birthday Surprise for Sleeping Beauty is tucked away inside Briar Rose Cottage, deep within a lush, Eyvind Earle-inspired forest. “Cinderella’s Chateau is fully realized,” Jon explains. “When you step through the doors of that attraction, your interaction is immediate. You arrive at the moment she realizes she won’t be going to the ball, and her dress will transform from rags to a ball gown before your eyes, and then she’ll step down and have a 15-minute interaction with the guests.” For the Sleeping Beauty experience, that entry point happens as Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather prepare to celebrate Briar Rose’s 16th birthday, smack dab in the middle of the action from the original film. Guests are treated to all sorts of interactive fairy magic inside the cottage, with Aurora herself as the guest of honor.
-“You know, the ability to go to Cinderella’s Chateau and Belle’s Cottage to meet them is very exciting. As Imagineers. we don’t get to build those kinds of iconic locations very often. We’re going to look at this model as our template for other Fantasylands world-wide as we build new Magic Kingdom’s around the world”
-The final area, or neighborhood, is Dumbo’s Circus, which will relocate Dumbo the Flying Elephant from it’s current location and-get this, patient parents-double capacity by adding a second attraction, effectively cutting guests’ wait time in half! Imagineers are also air-conditioning the entire experience by moving the queue indoors-under the big top, as it were. “We’ll provide a fully immersive circus environment inside Dumbo’s Big Top,” says Jon, “where guests are invited to engage in a series of interactive experiences, from sideshow acts to carnival midway games, while they wait. We really endeavored to begin the guest experience the moment they entered the queue.” The Dumbo area, built on the former site of Mickey’s Toontown Fair, will also absorb Goofy’s Barnstormer and transform it into a Dumbo-centric, clown themed coaster.
-And-drumroll please-Fantasyland forest won’t be limited to four neighborhoods for very long. Although the new expansion is slated to open in the fall of 2012, at the tail end of Walt Disney World’s 40th anniversary celebration, Imagineers already have their eyes on 2013, when Pixie Hollow will bring Tinker Bell and her fairy friends to Fantasyland Forest in the expansion’s second phase.