At Walt Disney World, Fantasyland is undergoing “the largest expansion in the history of Magic Kingdom,” according to Disney news releases, “vastly increasing the size of Fantasyland by 2013.”
It is a big expansion. It comes with a new ride, a fake castle, a ramped-up way to meet the Disney characters, and a welcome change from the traditional look of Fantasyland that relies largely on a circus tent theme.
It is not, however, the Magic Kingdom’s largest expansion, mainly because the land underneath is not virgin soil. It once housed a major E-ticket ride, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. If this is the biggest expansion, then the closing of 20,000 Leagues must be considered the Magic Kingdom’s biggest contraction. (20,000 Leagues took place in a fake submarine under an “ocean” of real water as clear as any swimming pool – very expensive to keep clean and not popular enough to justify operating costs.)
While the new ride opening soon will certainly get the most publicity – a journey “under the sea with Ariel, the Little Mermaid – repeat Disney guests should also note a clear change in atmosphere. Currently, all Fantasyland rides have the same circus canopy entrance, as if they all exist in the same place. But after the expansion, Fantasyland will have unique sections that feel like the Beast’s castle or Belle’s cottage (Beauty and the Beast) or Tinker Bell’s Pixie Hollow (recent Tinker Bell movies). The circus theme gets ramped up in one section, however, where Disney plans to add a second Dumbo ride – a favorite of kids – so the two identical rides operate side-by-side.
The upgrade isn’t much to look at yet, and 10-foot walls separate construction from the public. But once finished, Disney offers the following sketchy details:
Guests will be able to:
- Visit a favorite Disney princess in her castle, cottage or chateau. Share a dance with Cinderella; celebrate Sleeping Beauty’s birthday with the Good Fairies; or join Belle as she tells a story inside castle library.
- Dine in one of three enchanted rooms inside the Beast’s castle.
- Fly with Dumbo high above brand new circus grounds, twice the size of the existing attraction with a new interactive, three-ring circus tent.
- Journey under the sea with Ariel, the Little Mermaid, in her very own attraction – also opening at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim in 2011.
- Meet Tinker Bell and her friends in the magical world of Pixie Hollow.