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Thoughts on the Fantasyland Expansion

Friday, February 15, 2013

I love new activity within the Central Florida theme parks.  New construction, new experiences, new dining outlets all add to the entertainment and theme park environment.  I'm greedy when it comes to additions or positive changes in the theme parks.  That’s why I couldn’t wait for the major part of the Fantasyland expansion to open.  Disney had been talking about its opening for the past 2 years.  There have been cranes, construction walls, and posters announcing the various attractions we had over the horizon. 

Now that about 85 percent of the new Fantasyland is open (The 7 Dwarfs mine train is not open yet) we can really get a good look at what is offered to guests as they make their way behind Cinderella’s Castle.  The New Fantasyland area is divided up into 3 main areas; Storybook Circus, Under the Sea with Ariel, and the beauty and the Beast section (Enchanted Forest).  These areas are extremely well-themed.  As you walk through the various sections of the new area the transitions are very well done.  I had the opportunity to spend several hours inside the new Fantaslyland expansion during a recent trip and here are some thoughts I concluded during my visit.   

Revenue Generators Versus Attractions

All of the areas attractions are done very well in grand Disney style.  The new Double-Dumbo spinners and waiting area, Goofy’s Barnstormer, the Fantasyland Train Station, and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure have great theming and match their surroundings quite well.  However, if you pull the skin back on the Fantasyland expansion you’ll uncover something that is sort of annoying.  Most of the new structures and physical location are revenue generators.  For instance, Although the Be our Guest Restaurant is brilliant in design it is a revenue generator that was built to help offset the cost of the construction of the new Fantasyland.  The same goes for Gaston’s Tavern, and the souvenir shops in the Beauty and the beast and Storybook Circus areas.  It just seemed to me as I was walking through the area that most of the places were revenue generators.  The new Undersea Adventure attraction was a nice addition, but if you look at the rest of the area some of it is refurbished or recycled attractions like Barnstormer.  I certainly don’t blame Disney for reusing existing infrastructure to build the new Fantasyland area; I just wish there were a few more attractions and a few less revenue generating venues.  Maybe when the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens I’ll feel better about the number of attractions in the area. 

It’s Tough to Move the Needle at Disney World

No one could argue that Walt Disney World is a huge place in size and scope.  It’s a giant chunk of property with 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, several resort hotels, and more.  When Disney says they’re going to double the size of an existing land (like Fantasyland) we should feel pretty excited about what’s coming down the pipeline.  With so many major attractions on property it’s tough to get our attention when a new attraction announcement is made.  Even doubling the size of an existing land can only have us flinching at the announcement.  There are so many areas at Disney World that need attention adding new attractions, refurbishing existing attractions, or even using dead space with new experiences doesn’t seem to get us to turn our heads.  Adding a brand new attraction to EPCOT or the Animal Kingdom wouldn’t get us as excited as to say if one was added to Universal Orlando or Disneyland.  Since Universal Orlando and Disneyland are so much smaller they’d probably get our attention with new attraction announcements more so than if Disney World added a new attraction. 

Spread Out! 

One of the major objectives Disney’s top brass wanted the new Fantasyland to accomplish was additional space.  It seems the existing Fantasyland had way too many bottlenecks.  New Fantasyland was added with the intent to give guests more room to enjoy a piece of Americana.  As you walk through Fantasyland you’ll appreciate the additional space.  When the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens they’ll be even more space for guests to frolic through Fantasyland. 

Over in Storybook Circus there’s plenty of space to sit and relax, especially in the new holding area for the relocated Dumbo attraction.  You’ll appreciate the holding tent playground in the summer time while your kids have a good time and you relax in the comfort of air conditioning.  If Imagineers and Disney Execs wanted to accomplish a relaxing, spacious environment with additional space then they’ve succeeded. 

Conclusion

The new Fantasyland area is impressive on the outside. The foliage, the lighting, the space, and the facades are all great.  Even the inside of the attractions and eating establishments are impressive.  However, I feel the new area is somewhat attraction deficient.  It also lacks that one big draw attraction we’ve come to expect when a new area or land opens in a theme park.  It seemed like Disney was marketing the Be Our Guest Restaurant as that draw, but can we honestly say a dining establishment is a gate-buster attraction?  For some, maybe.  I don’t believe the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be an E-ticket attraction either. 

What makes Walt Disney World appealing is that there’s something for everyone.  For me personally, the new Fantasyland is good, but it didn’t really wow me like I was hoping.  For others it may be totally immersive and completely awesome.  I guess it boils down to expectations.  Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the area and theming.  I’m sure I’ll be inside Gaston’s Tavern a few times enjoying a LeFou’s Brew or Pork Shank.  To the Disney Execs who saw the crowds inside the existing Fantasyland and decided it was time to expand; we say THANK YOU!  The stroller parking areas alone were eating me up.  Here’s hoping we have several years of comfort and enjoyment with our families in the new Fantasyland. 

Photos courtesy of Disney Parks & Resorts

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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