Hello, and welcome to Dateline Disney World! This week, we have a very detailed look at the New Fantasyland that just soft opened at the Magic Kingdom. To go along with that, we have news from MK as well as some tidbits from Epcot. We have a lot to cover today, so off we go!!

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Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!!

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[center][size=5][b]Fantasy Revealed[/b][/size]
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This past week, Disney has been running technical rehearsals on the New Fantasyland. After reading Kevin Yee’s article from earlier this week, I share many of the same sentiments he does, so instead of you all reading the same thing over again, I’ll show mostly photos of the area with a few snippets of my commentary. Since I’ve already also covered Enchanted Tales with Belle some time ago, we’ll get started with the Be Our Guest restaurant.

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Those guys are great photo ops and set the tone for the experience to come. Here’s the main entrance to the restaurant.

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Details from the entrance.

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Once inside, on the right is the area where you will order counter service food during the lunch hours. Both sides of the hallway are flanked by the suits of armor.

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Since the restaurant is not open yet, guests have only been able to see the main ballroom dining area. And it is spectacular.

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It is very clear that Disney was handed a large budget for this restaurant, and if the food is anywhere near as good as the theming, it should be a hit. There have been a ton of complaints saying that Disney should have done a dark ride here. I feel like that would have been amazing, and in my eyes, probably better than a restaurant. But, given the fact that this is the decision they made, it is still a victory considering how poor the food options in the Magic Kingdom are. The other parks have high quality, well themed restaurants that are special, and until now, the Magic Kingdom has not had one. Now it finally does. We just have to hope the menu never gets watered down!

Moving on to the village area, we’ll start with Gaston’s Tavern.

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You’re greeted by this great statue of Gaston and LeFou, which is two toned like Partners, and thus very photogenic.

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Once inside, you have the pork, some small snack items, and the new apple freeze imported from DCA. Here’s what the dining room on the left looks like.

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And the portrait of Gaston himself in the other dining room.

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Some details outside.

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In between Gaston’s and Bonjour! Village Gifts, you have the restroom area that also has some seating near it, and lots of more great details.

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Now we come to Bonjour! Village Gifts.

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The gift shop is a little small, and features all Beauty and the Beast merchandise, along with some generic Disney castle stuff. The thing about this place that surprised me and impressed me the most was the lack of Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang. It makes Bonjour! special in that they can’t just get the same stuff here. And, the things that are in here, for the most part, can only be found here, which is great. Hopefully it stays that way.

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Then you have Maurice’s Popcorn cart next door, which is fine for what it is.

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Now we move on to what is, at least until the Mine Train opens, the highlight of this expansion for me, and that is the Little Mermaid omnimover attraction.

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This outside of this attraction and the queue are nothing short of Disney’s best work. Truly amazing.

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Inside, the ride is essentially the same as the DCA version, with maybe some slight lighting changes and a minute pacing changes.

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Overall, I feel that this attraction is a huge boost for the park. It might not be the E-Ticket everyone wants and it’s not the best dark ride, but a high capacity attraction like this, with a stunning queue helps set the standard for what they should do in the future. The queue for this attraction makes many of the rides on Walt Disney World property look bad by comparison, which I think is great. Hopefully we’ll see this high level of quality in future projects.

For my final thoughts on New Fantasyland, you’ll have to wait until the Mine Train opens, as I feel that is the attraction that will make or break this expansion. If it is a smash hit with great theme and excitement, this will all be a success. If not, it might leave a little to be desired. Either way, some things I heard while in the area were lots of guests comparing the land to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And while it might seem visually like WWoHP, I really don’t think Disney meant to do just that. If they did, that huge E-Ticket we’re all clamoring for would have come into play. Still, guests are expecting it, and that could be a problem for Disney. But unlike Islands of Adventure which waited 10 years to give guests a reason to visit, Disney is simply expanding their Fantasyland to add capacity and a new level of detail and services. And at that, it succeeds.

Also, seeing as I’ve been a photographer far longer than I’ve been a blogger, the New Fantasyland is utterly amazing to me. The textures, details, landscapes (in the Magic Kingdom!) and endless photo opportunities have me very excited for it. That said, the jury is still out for me on the overall success of the area until the Mine Train is done and the expansion is complete.

[center][size=5][b]Less Bears[/b][/size]
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This week, the Country Bear Jamboree reopened, with about 5 1/2 minutes worth of content cut out of it.

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I’ll start with the good. The carpeting is new, the benches have been made more comfy, and the audio is much better. The Bears themselves have also received some very welcome TLC.

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Also, Big Al is still around, which is most important in this blogger’s eyes.

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Onto the bad.

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The show is clunky now. The transitions don’t feel like they should, everything is very abrupt. Much of the wit and political “incorrectness” is still there, but some of it has also gone away. The finale feels very rushed. The whole attraction just feels very short and disjointed now. For some, that is probably a good thing. For others, it will feel like the quality and value of the attraction has slipped. As someone who was terrified of almost everything at Walt Disney World as a child, the Bears were something I could do and enjoy. I have remarkably fond memories of the show from my very early childhood, and to see a much shorter show as a true shame. I don’t exactly know their reasoning for doing what they did, even though every other blogger is convinced they do know. But, I try to find the good in everything, and having the theater cleaned up and made fresh and new means that the Bears will be with us for a while. Which is certainly better than having them taken out, which has been rumored for years.

[center][size=5][b]Construction Kingdom[/b][/size]
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There is still construction happening at Magic Kingdom, so let’s start at the new bathroom area. Rock work continues to grow.

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Disney confirmed this week that there will be no character meets at this location, just “guest comfort”, which is fancy talk for toilets.

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The walls came down at the other side of the Castle Wall this week, and it is basically the same as the other side.

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More steel continues to go up at the Mine Train coaster.

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We can get new angles now that the new area is open!

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Old angles are still good though, too.

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Over in Storybook Circus, the Fastpass sign was installed at the Barnstormer. I found it interesting that it actually says “Fastpass+” and not just “Fastpass”.

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And lastly, at the exit, they’ve been testing a new way to get people out without using the turnstiles, which is probably all preparation for NextGen, which should be rolling out sooner than we all think. All the clues are scattered around.

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Welcome to Epcot!!

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As you can see above, some of the special EPCOT 30 merch is still available a couple weeks later.

[center][size=5][b]Re-Track[/b][/size]
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Test Track is moving along, with some actual changes outside the attraction to cover.

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Changes being made to the front entrance.

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From aboard the monorail, you can see how much work has been done outside.

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[center][size=5][b]This and That[/b][/size]
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A new meet and greet location opened recently in France. I was worried at first, since I think WDW is getting way too meet and greet heavy, but this location was carved out to find a home for the meet and greet that was already there and was causing traffic flow issues.

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Walls have gone up in the Innoventions Plaza area. My guess is installing a central Fastpass location for all the attractions getting Fastpass (SSE, Imagination, Nemo) as part of NextGen.

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The Jammitors were out doing their Food and Wine Festival inspired show.

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And lastly, John and Nancy Lasseter were in town this week doing wine demonstrations at the Wonders of Life pavilion.

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Not entirely newsworthy, but anytime you get the chance to photograph a celebrity, you should probably take it!

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Well, that wraps things up for this week’s Dateline. What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen of New Fantasyland? Are you a fan or foe of the new version of the Country Bear Jamboree? Let us know in the comments!!

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If you enjoyed the column, especially the photos, and you want to check out more photos and tutorials on Disney photography, please check out my photo site, [URL=”http://www.DisneyPhotographyBlog.com”]Disney Photography Blog[/URL]. And if you like listening more than reading, you can hear us talk about Disney and photography on my podcast, [URL=”http://www.ISO5571.com”]ISO5571[/URL]

  • Ravjay12

    Great update and photos! Fantasyland looks fantastic! The level of detail is incredible! The mine train ride may not be much of a thrill, but if it has the level of detail that the rest of the land has, it will be a great center piece to tie everything together. If the restaurant turns out to be terrible, it can always be replaced by a dark ride in the future. Let’s give it a chance! From the pictures, it looks like its going to be really cool! Theme park experiences are not just about the rides.
    Sad to see some stuff cut from the Country Bear show.

  • KingEric

    what about the construction out in Adventureland with Aladdin’s magic carpets? Any news there?

    • Cory Disbrow

      When I was there this week, all I saw was paint happening. If more happens next week, it’ll be included!

  • jcruise86

    John Lasseter could help Disney
    with more energy and for 10-15 more years
    if he’d start exercising more and eating less. I HATE making that suggestion and
    only do so because I think he might be able to contribute more to Disney
    than any other individual.
    If I could travel to 1930 or 1940, I’d urge Walt to stop smoking
    so he could have been around contributing beyond his mid 60s.

  • No doubt fantasyland looks amazing. However guest comparisons to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are valid. They are obviously going to be left wondering where the big attraction is.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I am saddened about the bears. I think that shortening the show was the wrong direction. What it needed was a couple new songs and new bears. Disney has technology to take the voice of a character, like Henry, and then have him say some new things for an intro for a new bear or two. But the problem of the show was not that it was too long but that it was always the same. It needed to be a show with some variety. That would have improved the show.

  • jcruise86

    For better or for worse, the Country Bears just got some attention.

    Now I hope they’ll refurbish the Carousel of Progress,
    though I don’t want each scene shortened.

    • Carousel of Speed, now with 50% more spinning power. I can see it now.

  • Timekeeper

    Sad that the Country Bears got shorten, but the new Fantasyland Forest looks great!

    Timekeeper

  • SpectroMan

    Thanks Cory!

    Fantasyland will be a visual treat, for sure, but it screams money-grabbing. At least 2 gift shops, food stands and a restaurant…

    I’m sure the real reason for the Country Bear shortening would be that today’s audiences don’t have the attention span for a 20 minute animatronic show. Even Chuck E. Cheese has been experimenting with a concept with NO animatronics at all in their signature shows anymore. The plus for the bean counters is probably that they can now cycle through many more guests per hour by running the show more frequently.

    I sincerely HOPE Carousel of Progress is next on the refurb list. How much can it cost to redress, reprogram and re-record just ONE segment (the finale)?

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  • George Taylor

    Cory…great photos…but I’m sorry that everything at the Magic Kingdom scared you except the Country Bears!

    There’s a support group for that! 😉

    • Cory Disbrow

      Haha! Yes, I was very frightened of the Pirates and Haunted Mansion when I was a wee lad, and found great comfort in clappin’ my hands and stompin’ my feet along with the Bears. And even while the show is shortened, it is nice to still have them. They could have very easily gone the way of the Disneyland version of the show.

  • Tinkbelle

    The new Fantasyland looks fantastic! I would love to eat in the ballroom.

  • waymire01

    Totally agree that MK needed some more food options, although at the same time I have to say I think the existing ones get a bad rap. On our last trip we found ourselves eating spur of the moment at several of the restaurants there and were pleasantly surprised how good they were based on reviews, especially the Liberty tree and Tony’s, our food and service was fantastic at both. Hoping for future queue updates/rehabs for all of our favorite rides.. I’m all for improvement as long as they do not remove things (RIP snow white). Looking at you Peter Pan.. wouldn’t it be great to get a rehab there… and please, please do something to Mickey’s Philharmonic.. the place was completely nasty on our last trip, and it is one of my very favorite attractions.

    • jcruise86

      Why was Philharmagic “completely nasty” on your last trip?

    • Cory Disbrow

      As far as I know, the main reason for adding the new restrooms across from Peter Pan is so they can tear out the restrooms next to Peter Pan and expand and make the queue interactive. Hopefully while this happens, we’ll see Disney give the ride a full clean up and freshening that it very badly needs and deserves.

  • daliseurat

    I really WANT to love Fantasyland Forest. It really looks amazing. AMAZING. But, for the life of me I can’t understand why it isn’t anchored by an E-ticket. And why the big attraction is a copy of LM from DCA. And it’s not that great…I have virtually no interest in making a journey to WDW for this new “land”. But it looks amazing so I’ll have reserve any TRUE judgement until I step inside.

    • Cory Disbrow

      The way I see things is that a park like Islands of Adventure had one true E-Ticket style ride, that being Spider-Man. When they built Potter, they desperately needed another HUGE attraction for that park.

      With MK, it’s a little different, as you have the entire mountain range of E-Ticket rides along with classics like Haunted Mansion, Pirates, and Jungle Cruise. While I would have LOVED an E-Ticket in the New Fantasyland, I do feel that it isn’t quite as necessary there as it was at IOA. That also said, I’m holding out hope that the Mine Train ride will amaze us all and be a nice anchor for the area. We really haven’t gotten a ton of details regarding the ride, so we really don’t know what we’ in for.

      • daliseurat

        Definitely a good point, but Magic Kingdom is way past due for an amazing e-ticket. WDW got their butts kicked good when Spider-Man opened and Disney really hasn’t hit back. Now they have Potter, more Potter coming as well as Transformers. DIsney used to be the one to beat on all counts. I want that to come back.

  • PecosBill

    “The gift shop is a little small, and features all Beauty and the Beast merchandise, along with some generic Disney castle stuff. The thing about this place that surprised me and impressed me the most was the lack of Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang. It makes Bonjour! special in that they can’t just get the same stuff here. And, the things that are in here, for the most part, can only be found here, which is great. ”

    It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a generic gift ship with all the same “DisneyParks(R) Generic” crap. Remember back to the early 90’s (the good ol days) when “Briar Patch” was a unique shop with unique gifts?

    • Cory Disbrow

      Yes, I do remember those days at the Briar Patch. Hopefully we don’t see a repeat of that with this new gift shop. I’m not holding out hope, but it would be cool if they kept the shop special.

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  • Mac Daddy

    Great update, Cory! The new Fantasyland looks amazing!

    • Cory Disbrow

      You shouldn’t have time to comment on my columns, Bill. You should be out capturing an amazing sunset out at Disneyland!

  • Aotphks

    Mr. Disbrow wrote: “This outside of this (Little Mermaid) attraction and the queue are nothing short of Disney’s best work. Truly amazing.”.
    With due respect, maybe Mr. Disbrow should visit Disneyland Paris or Tokyo DisneySea. Those two parks represent the very best of Disney’s themed works in a “park enviroment”, and I don’t mean just an area, but entire parks.
    I don’t mean to downplay what the Imagineers have accomplished in the Magic Kingdom and I do agree that it is “Disney’s best work” so far IN THE Magic Kingdom park. After seeing Tokyo and Paris, I expected no less from this new expansion, and I am glad to see the old Magic Kingdom park getting some well deserved and much delayed TLC. Yet, as beautiful as it is, seems to me it’s all candy and not a lot of substance. It’s been mentioned the Mermaid ride is the same as California Adventures, which I thought was neat. And apart from some technical aspects of the “Belle’s Enchanted Tales”, this new expansion still does not deliver a huge POW!! like Universal’s Harry Potter ride does. I am looking forward to the Snow White themed coaster but I’m not expecting an E-ticket extravaganza, but it should be interesting to see what transpires since it will be a totally new concept with a familiar theme.
    The photos in this report show what Disney is capable of if given some cash and dedication to exceed. Yet, it all comes across as the Magic Kingdom trying to “catch up” with similar visual quality already found in most Disneyland Parks around the globe. I guess we should be glad it’s finally happening.. even if a bit tad late.
    At this point in time, I can only hope that those in charge of creating change in the Magic Kingdom can turn their attention to the rest of the park and somehow re-theme the rest of what is now a very stale park when compared to it’s sister Disneyland parks and some 2nd gates.
    For now, the Magic Kingdom can claim two great visual areas to enjoy: the newly expanded fantasyland area and walking down Main Street toward Cinderella Castle. Even maybe three great visual park moments if you count arriving at the Magic Kingdom from the Ferry Boat over the Seven Seas Lagoon as a moment to behold.

    Thanks for the great photography and commentary.

  • Gn2Dlnd

    The CBJ edits are terrible. The Fantasyland additions are gorgeous (though, having lived with it in DCA for a while now, the Mermaid ride is a bit light).

    How is it that a company known for their storytelling skills can deliver such erratically different product? Just sad.

    http://youtu.be/_vwchwHjML0

  • danielz6

    I don’t understand why the castle entrance is in the side of a rock mountain. In the movie the bridge leads directly to the castle doors. Is that supposed to be like a back entrance or something?
    Also its getting really annoying comparing this to Potter land and their e ticket. You should just take it on its own terms for what it is. Disney never claimed to be countering Potter with this expansion. IMO Potter isn’t even the ride to beat, that would be transformers which is easily universals best ride.
    Finally, here’s how I see it(at least until mine train opens) Immediately I have negative thoughts about it because they cut snow white. I mean c’mon! Its snow white! Its one of the most influential films in ALL history. And by the way with out snow white, Disneyland, Disney world and all of the Disney empire would never have existed! That’s a fact that’s hard to refute so why the heck would you cut that ride from the park? That is the worse decision I can imagine second only to removing one of the iconice castles from a park! However if snow white AND the evil queen make a climactic appearance in mine train, it would be forgiveable. If not than unforgiveable. I wouldn’t cut snow white for the extra major e ticket Tron, racers, iron man I don’t care! You don’t mess with snow white! Period! Ok I’ve made that point I think.
    Ok so the theming

    • danielz6

      Theming is unrefuteably gorgeous, and yes it appears to be Disney best work. Doesn’t mean its better than Tokyo or paris as some have improperly misquoted the author, he’s saying its Disney’s best quality work, not the best thing Disney has ever done, those two sound the same but they’re not. He’s saying they’re Disney’s best, in terms of quality, not in terms of overall quantity of rides and attractions. Yes it looks beautiful, especially the ball room.
      And of course mermaid, well we’ve all heard the criticisms for that ride and I agree with them. Ride should have been substantially plussed for WDW.
      So overall I give the new land a 7. And only because the themeing is so immaculate. A plusses mermaid ride and e ticket b and beast ride would have easily trapped a solid 10. But of course they cheaper out with tales with belle instead and that to me is another big dissapointment after removing snow white. However if mine tribe is a hit AND includes the aforementioned snow white and evil queen some way I’d give the land and 8. But without a great e ticket I couldn’t go any higher than that. Lets not forget that even little 80 acre Disneyland has the Matterhorn as its fantasyland anchor, built way back in ’59, and I always exoectexpect Disney world , with all of its land and status to build bigger and better than Disneyland. Walt expected that and so should us fans.

      • danielz6

        Sorry stupid phone spell checked my words. Trapped should be grabbed. Plusses should be plussed. And tribe should be train.

  • dinosaurjim

    Great post! One question though, as a guy who has only ever taken his family to Disneyland and never Disney World, are there a lot more meet and greets at WDW than there are at DLR? I feel like, as the father of 5 pretty young kids, there weren’t enough! It seemed like in DLR there was always an hour wait for each character meet and greet spot, and for my family, precious time at any Disney property was just not well spent standing in line for the character meet and greets, even though I know the kids would have LOVED to meet more characters. I figure if there are more meet and greets, the lines would be shorter (you know, the old supply and demand stuff). Is there any sense to my logic? Are there a lot more meets at WDW than DLR already?

    • Cory Disbrow

      Yes, there are tons of meet and greet locations at WDW! Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 11 just in the Magic Kingdom alone. There are less than that in the other parks, but I think that you’ll see more meet and greets than you have time to visit them while still seeing all the rides and shows. One of the criticisms WDW has been receiving of late is the fact that they just keep dropping in meet and greets instead of new attractions!