Hello, and welcome to Dateline Disney World! This was a big news week with the grand opening of New Fantasyland and the reopening and complete re-imagining of Test Track over at Epcot!

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Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!!

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As you can see, the tree is now up in the Magic Kingdom after the Christmas Parade taping concluded.

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Details of the tree.

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[center][size=5][b]Grand Reveal[/b][/size]
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Disney had it’s Grand Reveal of New Fantasyland yesterday. I was in the park the day before and saw some of the preparation for the event.

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The stage was set right behind Partners, which made the statue unavailable to photographs that day.

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Special banners up in front of Cinderella Castle for the event.

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Camera crews were set up everywhere.

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As were these guys for the media preview that happened Wednesday night.

[center][size=5][b]Construction Kingdom[/b][/size]
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As I reported last week (without photos), the Tangled tower is now up in the back of Fantasyland near Liberty Square.

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It’s really quite beautiful, and to be completely honest, it wasn’t as big of a deal as people were making it out to be in terms of its proximity to the Haunted Mansion. Yes, you can see it from Frontierland and Liberty Square, but you can also see the Contemporary Hotel from those locations, and it has been like that for years.

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Rock work continues.

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Steady progress on the new restrooms.

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Over at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, there are some cool new billboards attached to the construction walls.

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They’re fun, and if you look closely at one of them, you can see concept art that basically confirms Snow White being part of the ride, even though it is themed to the Seven Dwarfs.

[img]http://www.miceshots.com/usr/72/DatelineDisneyWorldNewTestTrack-PC050032.jpg[/img]

You can also look through some of them, as they have plexiglass built in, and Dopey is holding a sign saying “Take a Peek”. Here are those views.

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I like that Disney is doing that and allowing folks to get an idea for what is happening. It helps build hype and excitement for the project.

Here are some other views from around the Mine Train.

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The cottages are really coming along quickly.

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I noticed these signs in Storybook Circus that I never noticed before this week. Anyone know if they are new, or am I just crazy?

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Welcome to Epcot!!

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[center][size=5][b]Back on Track[/b][/size]
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Test Track reopened at Epcot this week, and we have tons of photos to share with you. I’ll save my thoughts on the attraction for the end. We’ll start with the outside and the queue.

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New Fastpass machine design.

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The queue is completely different than it was before, now resembling a showcase of future automotive technology, and there is no more clinky clanky music!

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As you can see, this is no longer a proving ground, but a new Chevrolet Design Center takes its.

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The above touch screens are there to give the kids a head start before they head into the design studios.

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Once you get inside the Studio, you are given an RFID card, and get a touch screen where you are able to design your own car.

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This process takes about 5-6 minutes, and note that if you use Fastpass, you will not be able to design your own car. Instead, you will have to pick from a group of pre-designed ones.

From there, you get back into a queue and head toward the ride portion, which they are now calling the Sim Track.

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The load/unload area looks similar, yet different all at once. It is much more organized than it used to be.

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You scan your RFID card before you board to link your design to your ride, which does pretty much nothing until the end when it tells you how the car did on the Sim Track.

Now, time for some on-ride photos! If you don’t want to be spoiled, I would scroll way down at this point.

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Once the ride is over, you go to the post show area, where you can make a Chevy commercial for your car using the RFID, take photos with it, and also play some more games and see the latest Chevy vehicles.

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Then, once you drop off your RFID cards, you go into the same gift shop as the old Test Track, where there is a lot of Chevy and Cars merchandise, and two or three things for the new Test Track that you just experienced.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with the new Test Track. I was not a huge fan of the original version, and this is definitely an improvement. It has a much more of a classic “EPCOT Center” feel than that the original Test Track. There is some learning, interactivity, and creativity involved where you design your own vehicle and then find out how what you did made the car more or less powerful or eco friendly. The visuals on the on-ride portion are really wild and lots of fun to look at, which is welcome given how old and tired the original Test Track looked. At its core though, the ride is exactly the same layout, and is no more or less thrilling than the original, it is just in a MUCH prettier package. One has to wonder though what this attraction will feel like in 4 or 5 years. Will this “futuristic” look still feel the same way? Or will it go the way of its predecessor and have fans chanting for it to change? We will see. But what I really want to know is what YOU think of the redesigned Test Track.

That’s going to wrap things up for this week’s Dateline. Did you enjoy getting a peek into the Seven Dwarfs construction zone? Do you feel like the new Test Track is a step in the right direction for Epcot? 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]