Welcome to [B]Dateline Disney World[/B] on the all new and beautiful [B]MiceChat![/B] This week, we saw lots of work going on in the [B]New Fantasyland[/B] at the [B]Magic Kingdom[/B], particularly in the [B]Storybook Circus[/B] area. Disney also opened up a brand new (sort of!) resort called [B]Art of Animation[/B]. We’ve got a big update for you this week, so let’s get started with the [B]Magic Kingdom![/B]


Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!


I had to throw that picture of Uncle Walt with a feathered friend this week!

[center][size=5][b]Messy Main Street[/b][/size]

The summer crowds are most definitely here and will be sticking around from now until the end of August. Main Street was particularly crowded, and thus pretty messy.



I was lucky enough to arrive in the morning and enjoy the Dapper Dans riding along on one of the Main Street Vehicles.


This is something I really wish would happen all day long. It adds so much charm and fun to the entrance of the park, but it seems that on most days, the Vehicles are gone by noon. Somewhat of a shame.

The refurbishments are [B]still[/B] going on at the Chamber of Commerce, Chapeau, and Main St. Bakery.




At least the window details are still there!




These scrims are actually starting to droop, which in my eyes is a sign that it should be just about time to take them down and reveal some beautiful buildings. Hopefully it happens soon to coincide with the summer crowds.

[center][size=5][b]Construction Kingdom[/b][/size]

Work was continuing rather heavily this week at the Fantasyland Expansion. Usually, when I walk by this area you can see a few folks doing some things, but this week, there were groups of workers at every individual part of the expansion. You could hear lots of work going on, and it is starting to show!

At the Castle Wall, there isn’t a ton of new stuff to see.


These turrets will soon be covered and made to mimic Cinderella Castle.



Some cement and detail work was happening on the furthermost left pillar.


Snow White was sadly all boarded up:


They simply put up a fabric to cover up the name:


The blue wall that is up in front of Snow White was the wall that was directly behind the Carrousel, which has now been replaced with this green one.


This wall being put up gained some walking space back to the area near Pinnochio Village Haus, where it is most definitely needed.


At the Beauty and the Beast area, work continues steadily. You can see the roof is quickly getting shingles at Bonjour! Village Gifts.


Not sure about those colors, but once they fade a little bit, they should look nice.

Gaston’s Tavern looks about the same as it did last week, with maybe a few new trees in front of it.


The trees are really popping up all over this project.





It really is fantastic to see all of it. At Maurice’s Cottage, I noticed this little wishing well out front, which is a nice touch.


At the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, supports were being lifted and put in place this week:


Large pieces of wall were also being moved around by the very large crane that is on site.



They have also gone vertical with the support structure for some of the smaller hills that will surround this attraction.



At the Little Mermaid dark ride, there isn’t a ton to see. The details still look exquisite on Prince Eric’s castle:


There was paint work being done on the rock work this week.


There was also lots of cement being made on site this week.


They were planting trees behind the Mine Train and in front of the Little Mermaid, but I think those trees are meant for the Snow White portion of the expansion, since the model at Hollywood Studios has large palm trees in front of the Little Mermaid, not pine trees.

The area being set up for a Winnie the Pooh meet and greet near its attraction got some new trees this week.


Work was also being done on the overhang where the characters will reside.


Now we hit where there was lots of news this week, and that is Storybook Circus. Right at the start, they added a new sign along the construction walls.


Trees have been added to separate the second Dumbo spinner with the Tomorrowland Speedway.



Great to see all this foliage. Trees were also added in front of the second Dumbo spinner.


The large turquoise tent, which is supposed to be the gift shop was fully skinned this week, which I had not seen before.



Dumbo got the large marquee it deserves this week! It features Timothy, which is something that fans were nervous they were going to lose, since he used to be at the top of the spinners, and is now not.






The marquee looks great, and should look even better once the walls come down and both sets of spinners are operational. The wait time sign was also installed on the side of the second spinner.


Disney also released photo and video of the interactive queue system they will be doing, and the general reaction from within the fan community has been that it looks a little cheap and simply resembles a kid’s playground. That was basically what I was expecting from the start, and even if that is the case, the air conditioning will at least be nice to sit in, rather than standing in the sun during the summer months.

I rode the Barnstormer this week to get some shots of the Casey Jr. area which is really coming along quickly.




Sorry for the blurriness on this one, the train started going down the first hill here!


Blurriness aside, I think that shot shows how things will look past Casey Jr., and I think it should be nice.

Looks like the Casey Jr. area will have a little gift cart.


Some details from the play area.




This guy was clearly doing his job 🙂


As you can see behind him, there is some nice rock and surface work going on in this area.

There were more trees planted this week near Casey Jr. as well.


Storybook Circus was the area of New Fantasyland that I thought was going to be the dud if there was one when it was first announced. I think I am taking that statement back now. With all the trees being planted, the area looks more and more beautiful every week. And once those trees grow over a few years, it will be nice and shady, and a really nice place to visit. The music is great, the area is lively, and I’m very impressed with it so far. I can’t wait to see it in July when more parts open and just enjoy it!

[center][size=5][b]This and That[/b][/size]

Some little things that went on this week include more trees! You guys might get sick of hearing me say that by the time the expansion is done! These ones were planted over by where the new Tangled meet and greet and new restrooms will be going in Fantasyland.




This is great news, as before these trees were planted, you could really see the Haunted Mansion from Fantasyland. Now that view is obstructed, and over time will become even more so.

Behind the walls on the same project, there was lots happening.




They did some major league digging here as well. I’m not sure if this is just for underground work, or if the area will dip down that low, but from where I was standing, it seemed to be about six to eight feet down that they went. Should be interesting to see where this project goes.

Over in Tomorrowland, the construction walls by Stitch we reported on are for the removal of Fastpass at that attraction. Fastpass was never really necessary there, and it’s good to see Disney realize it, and hopefully start moving towards replacing that attraction with something worthwhile.

Also in Tomorrowland, the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant was open! This usually only happens during busy times of the year.




The Terrace yields some of the best views in the park, and now with the Wishes Dessert Parties happening almost nightly, you can’t always get in here to enjoy these views.



On the monorail line back, work is also continuing on the DVC work at the Grand Floridian, with the second floor starting to rise up already.





This past week, Disney opened up its Art of Animation Resort.


The resort is right next to Pop Century, and was once supposed to be part of that resort, celebrating the years of 1900-1940. Disney decided to scrap that project, and the buildings sat dormant for many years. They eventually decided to use them as mostly family suites, and to theme them all to only 4 Disney films: Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, Cars, and The Lion King. They’ve decided to open the resort in phases, and started with the Finding Nemo wing. I think they should have waited until the whole resort was finished, as walking around there, parts feel just that, unfinished. Seeing construction walls at the parks, or on small fixed at the resorts is alright. But seeing 3/4 of a resort not open seemed a little odd. It will feel the same way at New Fantasyland as parts open in phases as well.

Here is the lobby area, which features sketches of the films featured at the resort.





The check in desks are separate this time, instead of a long desk, to give a more personal experience, which is a nice touch.

The gift shop area is called in ink and paint shop.


It features more photos from the films at its entrance.


Inside, the shop is very, very colorful.




The theme looked great, but from what I could tell, there was a lot of the typical, generic Disney merchandise. I’d really like to see some more individual stuff happen, especially at resorts, but oh well.

The food court is called Landscapes of Flavor, and was really quite nice. They had a very customizable menu, and the seating areas were gorgeous.



Detail in the lighting.


Since the Nemo wing is all that is open, that was all we could stroll through. Very much like Pop when you walk the pathways.



The buildings feature larger than life versions of the characters integrated into play areas and photo ops.




The pool is called the Big Blue Pool, and is very big.



The pool has lots of interactivity, and apparently when you go underwater, you can hear Dory and little to music, which is a really nice touch, and a great use of technology.

Disney switched to using RFID cards for hotel keys with this resort. And there are RFID swipe locations everywhere. To get inside the buildings, to get inside the pool. This makes the place feel very exclusive. But if you forget your key, you might have a bit of a hassle getting back into even your building, let alone your room.

Opening June 18th is the second wing of the resort, and that is the Cars wing.





It seems like a very scaled down, value resort version of the uber impressive Cars Land out at Disney California Adventure.

Overall, the Art of Animation resort is nice. It is a HUGE step up over both Pop Century and the All Star resorts. But, at its core, it is still a value resort. There is still a cheesy feel to it, and it lacks a real story other than it being a mashup of four Disney or Pixar films. The resorts like Port Orleans and the deluxe resorts have a great rich story and theme, which Art of Animation does not. There have been some folks on social networks that have ranked Art of Animation above everything except for flagship hotels, which to me is a little silly. The theme is nice, and like I said, it is far better than its value counterparts, but I would take a moderate or deluxe over it any day of the week.

Well, that’s going to wrap it up for this week’s Dateline. There are lots of things happening! What are your thoughts on the indoor queue at Dumbo? Which part of New Fantasyland do you think will be the best? How do you feel about the Art of Animation resort? Let us know in the comments!

If you enjoy the column, especially the photos, and you want to check out more photos and tutorials on Disney photography, please check out my other website, [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].

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Thanks for reading this edition of Dateline Disney World. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope you’ll check back every Friday for more WDW news and photos!