Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: A Fun and Solid “D Ticket” Attraction (Spoilers Only at End)

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on May 27, 2014 at 2:00 am with 54 Comments

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train finally soft-opened to the public on Friday 5/23, which also happened to be the 24 hour day. While I didn’t show up there until the late afternoon, I got to sample the ride six times in that first day (lines move much faster when there’s no FastPass+) and have some initial reviews to offer. Note that the first half of this report is spoiler-free.

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Let’s cut right to the chase: the ride exceeded my expectations. I have always assumed, since the announcement, that as a ride it would be situated somewhere between Barnstormer and Big Thunder, and indeed that about sums up the thrill level of the attraction. It’s not meant to be an E-Ticket. Those of you with outsized expectations, expecting a power coaster like Big Thunder, will actually be disappointed. The swinging action, as I grew to suspect in the final weeks, mostly does not ADD to the thrill but rather dampens it (more on this later, however).

I went in to the ride without knowing the spoilers and without having seen any videos, so your level of expectation may be different. I had heard enough to expect that the indoor scenes would be short and not that involved. That led me to expect extremely limited things. In retrospect, I guess I was expecting something like the temple (indoor) scenes in the Orlando Jungle Cruise–about a minute or so only and just passing by some static displays. Well, the “dark ride” portion of the attraction was very much above my expectations. Yes, the animatronics were surprising for how detailed and lifelike they were, but mostly it’s the set design and lighting that had me wowed. That said, I don’t want to raise YOUR expectations too high. This part of the ride is unfortunately too short.

I considered calling this a “C Ticket” attraction, mostly because the level of thrill is just not that high. But there is a charm in this attraction that is hard to put your finger on. It has none of the coldness and distance of Under the Sea. It feels intimate and warm, and instantly familiar, while nonetheless delivering surprises and (short) visual feasts. Frankly, on the level of execution in some ways it could even be an “E Ticket”, especially if you remind yourself that in Walt’s day, most E-Ticket rides were NOT thrill rides; they were about theme and immersion. But it doesn’t quite reach that level, mostly because of its brevity. Part of me wishes they’d not tried to make a roller-coaster. A next-gen dark ride with zero thrill at all could have had tons of show scenes. If they were all of this quality, we’d be having a whole different conversation.

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The bottom line is that this is a “starter coaster” for children, but it’s one that no other theme park could ever match. Its innovative ride system gives it a tech boost that renders the ride itself unbelievably smooth, for one thing, but that is overshadowed by the charm and technical know-how in the show (animatronics/environment). It’s hard to imagine any Disney competitor truly delivering as much on that level as this ride provides. I also enjoy that it’s a “terrain coaster” (ie, the peaks and valleys are not bare steel, but follow the contours of the artificial hills and dips). Yes, it’s a tiny one, but this IS part of the Disney mountain range. It’s easily the brightest star of the New Fantasyland constellation.

Theme; “Look and Feel”

Let’s face it: this ride feels like it belongs at Disneyland. It’s small, it’s cute, and it’s intimate. Portions of the ride feel like other Disney experiences. When the queue goes downhill next to a stone wall, it reminds me of Anaheim’s Big Thunder queue. When we reach the loading zone, it reminds me of Journey to the Center of the Earth in Tokyo on a smaller scale. The reason for this is that the entire environment around you in the indoor queue (walls, floors, even ceilings) are sculpted concrete, and we’re talking high-effort patterns. It’s not craftsmanship; it’s artistry, and it’s astounding. All that effort works silently to make you feel like you’re really in a mining cave, and it’s highly successful.

The outdoor portions of the ride, in terms of theme, largely remind me of Expedition Everest. There’s really on vegetation to look at, and at this point in its lifespan, all the vegetation looks a bit sparse. That’s sure to change later, of course (and I love how many trees this area has!), but in general, there’s not as much “there” there as you’d want.

Size and Length

As noted earlier, the ride is too short. As a coaster, you’re almost expecting a third upramp and a final act, but instead, you’re at the finish line by that point. There are only two upramps in the ride. While all this is true, it would not be easy to imagine how designers could have made a longer roller-coaster out of this. They could have maybe made a slow dark ride last longer in this same space, but a coaster needed to be just this short. The problem, of course, is one of available land. The footprint for the attraction was dictated by existing structures, so it’s hard to fault the designers on this.

Thrill

The coaster mostly feels like Barnstormer, except perhaps that drops are a touch longer, and the turns obviously more numerous and not as tight. The speed is a bit faster than Barnstormer, but not yet Big Thunder. It truly is a mix between both of those. But as noted earlier, you don’t go to Disney for thrill. Most Walt-era rides were not about physical thrills. And besides, it’s worth remembering that the Magic Kingdom aims for a wide spectrum of thrills since it attracts the entire range of visitors, from young kids to old. Disney is successful precisely because it doesn’t try to make every attraction an E-Ticket ride.

Swinging

I’ve been on some suspended coasters where the swinging action really makes a difference and adds to the thrill, but the swinging on a terrain coaster dampens the thrill. It smooths out the turns and you feel them LESS. Perhaps we are fooling ourselves, but after several rides and experiments, we discovered that you can increase the amount of swing by leaning into/out of the turns strategically. It also helps if you plant the heavier people in your two-row car on the same side. With increased swing comes increased thrill.

Interactive queue games

There are three interactive games in the queue, and all three of them are perfect. They offer quick engagement; they are easily to grasp and start attempting to master, and they are easy to walk away from (because the line is moving again). That last point is extra nice since the line won’t back up and then surge, at least not too much. This is arguably the first time Imagineers have gotten the interactive game thing just right. They help pass the time but don’t dominate.

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Spoilers Below

The remainder of this article will contain spoilers. If you haven’t yet seen video of the attraction or been on it yourself, you may want to skip this section for now.

Plot

It wouldn’t be a Disney ride without a story behind it. The story here seems to be that we enter the mine where the dwarfs are working while still in the queue. In fact, we pass through the “Vault” door seen in the movie, complete with the key Dopey leaves right next to it. Then, we board vehicles while still inside one part of the mine, and instantly head outdoors (that part reminds me strongly of Crush’s Coaster in Paris; the ride starting with a quick trip outdoors on a short drop). We navigate through some nature and get used to the coaster dynamics, then head into a tunnel.

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This turns out to be the part of the mine where the diamonds are, and we see all seven dwarfs hard at work (or play). There’s music here, and animatronics that look as good as anything Disney has produced in the past. The faces are projected onto the figures, a little bit like Buzz Lightyear in his attraction, but with less white-out effect and more character. The figures also move a lot, and fluidly. Having that many moving animatronics on both sides of the vehicle is information overload, made even more dazzling by the seemingly hundreds of colorful diamonds in the walls, illuminated by lights. It’s overpowering in all the right ways, and similar in feel to Pirates of the Caribbean–way too much to see on your first, or even tenth, visit. It demands you return (again in a good way).

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At the end of the mine, Doc calls quitting time with “Heigh-Ho”, and the upramp shows us shadows of the dwarfs heading home, which is a nice touch. There is a Hidden Oswald on the left side wall here somewhere; I only saw it once and can’t find it again to snap a picture (someone help in the comments!) Then it’s down the big hill, which isn’t really THAT big but certainly is the top thrill of this attraction. Around the corner and over the bridge brings us to the S-turn, where the swinging is maximized, and then around another bend to the end.

Except the end isn’t the end. That cottage you saw from the queue isn’t just background; it has a show scene from this side of the ride, which surprised me. The dwarfs in here are props from the old ride, except the ones dancing with Snow White (that dancing group actually moves around inside the cottage on a complicated turntable pattern), and there are other animal props recycled here too. (Of note: the vultures atop the first upramp were also recycled from the former attraction).

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The cottage is the hold/brake zone before the unload dock, and it’s brilliant to put something here to look at. I wish every attraction had such a show scene in this place. As your vehicle finally starts moving again, look to the side of the cottage for one final surprise: the queen/hag with her apples cackling at the window.

I’ve put together an extensive photo-tour of the attraction (both queue plus ride) here. Or, you may wish to watch a video (not mine) of the ride:

Where to Ride

As with any coaster, you’ll get a different experience in the front versus in the back. The front brings you enhanced views of everything, plus you can see the hag cackle at the end of the cottage (everyone else just sees her static). The back increases the perceived speed of the attraction and definitely increases the swing.

Ultimate Orlando Clicks #16 – 24 Hour Day in Orlando

The 24-hour party at the Magic Kingdom on May 24 gave many surprises and costumes; we look at the props, the characters, and the dance floor. Plus, we tour Tinker Bell’s new meet and greet facility on Main Street and catch up with some minor additions to signage at the Magic Kingdom.

Direct link: http://youtu.be/NsJ1OxB0mxQ

Ultimate Orlando

I’ve maintained a “side blog” since 2006 and have unified all my social networking around one site and brand. That means I only use the “Ultimate Orlando” venues/accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and a dedicated YouTube channel and playlist. If you follow me on any of these services, please update your bookmarks:

 

 

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida.

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  • ssaamm

    I’ve only been on this ride through YouTube and I wasn’t expecting any big thrill ride but I’m still slightly disappointed by it. I don’t think it’s a bad ride or anything, but it’s just okay. I feel that it needs another show scene, one that acts as more of a climax, maybe the witch pushing a boulder onto you or something? I don’t know but I definitely feels like it is missing something. If I was in the Magic Kingdom today and had the entire park to myself, it wouldn’t be the first thing I would go to, the new ride should make you want to do that.

  • Internitty

    I think this is a neat roller coaster especially for kids, it’s one the whole family can go on together and the theming is really cool. I wonder if it would fit in Disneyland where the chalet near the Matterhorn is being taken down, I think it would be perfect there.
    Adults might be disappointed but kids sure won’t be and I am not either.

  • Ravjay12

    I think it’s a suitable replacement for Snow White’s scary adventures, and fits the Fantasyland landscape very well. Though the ride is very underwhelming, the level of detail and landscaping is very well done.

  • mainejeff

    At least this ride shows that Disney artistry is alive and well. Now if only corporate would loosen the purse strings and construct new attractions in a timely manner. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait a decade for a new Star Wars or Marvel attraction.

  • jcruise86

    Thanks for the excellent review, Kevin! I’m glad “the ride exceeded [your] expectations,” but sorry it “was too short.” It seems like a nice addition to Fantasyland.

    I hope to read an extensive review from you about Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express in both directions, and the Gringott’s ride.

    • RodeToad

      Good idea! I too would like to read your review of the new Potter rides/land when it opens.

  • LoveStallion

    It’s “Heigh-Ho!”

    • Kevin Yee

      Whoops! It sure it. Fixed now; thanks. I remember when I wrote it that it looked wrong but somehow my brain stopped there instead of investigating. Grr!

      • LoveStallion

        Heh. No worries. I think I, too, only learned the correct way to spell it while looking it up out of curiosity when you guys posted the video of the Dwarf Coaster a few weeks ago.

        And I agree with you on the dark scenes being too brief. You are correct that the Imagineers only had so much footprint to work with, especially since the Dwarf Coaster was not part of the original master plan for New Fantasyland. Still, it leaves me wanting and I wish they could have figured out a way to stretch out that sequence. It’s really borderline pointless.

        LOVE the little coda at the brake at the end, though. The hag totally makes the ride.

  • solarnole

    I don’t think it was worth the 5 year wait. It’s slightly better then a dark ride but if it storms it will close down. It seems like Disney trying to be cool. They should had just made an interactive dark ride.

    Lame slowly built rides like this are why I go to Universal.

  • disneydempster

    Kevin – thanks for the great review which praises what Disney does well in its execution of this attractraction rather than slamming them for what they didn’t do.

  • EasyRover

    The ride does seem short. And it made me think of attractions built within the past few years and how the majority of them are very short. I don’t think we will see lengthy attractions like Horizons, Carousel of Progress, or Universe of Energy anymore. If I was an executive within the company, my thinking would be people can’t be spending money if they are on a ride (ie photo opportunities at meet and greets).

    • thebear

      I agree about not seeing those kinds of attractions anymore. People just don’t seem to want to go on them over and over like they do coasters. The last times I went on Horizons a cast member had to stand in front like a carnival barker encouraging people to ride. Carousel of Progress and Universe of Energy usually seem about 25% full unless people go on for weather related reasons. They just seem to wait way too long to either update those attractions or keep them in top form.

      • Omnispace

        Agreed. Guests can tell when there is no more effort put into an attraction such as Energy, Horizons, and COP. The popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean keeps me hopeful that there is still a place for such immersive experiences.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        I think it has less to do with the length of the attraction and more to do with the lack of updating and renovating of said attractions. Carousel of Progress could very well be a nice C-ticket experience, if only progress didn’t stop at or around the Cosby sweaters age. (Honestly, they should move COP to Epcot in place of the Odyssey Restaurant and consider it a thesis statement for the park. I’d do the same for Jungle Cruise in AK, although I’d use real animals in lieu of dated animatronics.)

    • LoveStallion

      Welcome to the Snapchat generation. ADD America.

    • bhb007

      I love the old “10 minute +” attractions, but I don’t think we’re going to get those back any time soon (unless you live in Tokyo). To me, 3 minutes is the modern era sweet spot. I believe ToT in Orlando is at or over 3 minutes. The length seems appropriate to the que/scale of the ride. In contrast, when The Mummy opened at Universal, its sub 2 minute ride time made the que/scale of the ride seem imbalanced and people felt gypped when they got off.

      This fails that test and I suspect quite a few “why did we wait that long for that” comments coming off the ride (regardless of the artistry involved).

  • almandot

    When you get to the end of the ride you want the track to just transfer over, take you through the cottage, and into Disneyland’s Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride. Would be a seamless transition minus all the technology differences. ;)

  • Laura P

    Awesome review! The ride sounds exactly on level with my expectations, which were for something along the lines of big thunder and a short dark ride. Too bad about the swinging not providing extra thrill though, I was really curious to see how that would change the ride. The new animatronics though are what really make the ride exciting for me. I think it’s great they took one of Disney’s oldest movies and gave it such an updated treatment…it really feels like a wonderful way of keeping the older movies popular. And to see how far animatronics have come since the first rides is amazing. And hopefully will continue. I’m imagining what Little Mermaid would have been like had they done something more immersive and animated like this than the more static, detached scenes the shells simply go past.

  • Algernon

    Let’s go fast and yell, “Weeeeeeee!” Another ride where Grandma and the little ones, and maybe both parents, sit on a bench while the kids and teens go on it–exactly what Walt Disney built Disneyland to get away from, as he sat on a bench while his daughters went on carnival rides. Instead of a coaster, couldn’t they have made an E-ticket Snow White’s Adventures on the scale of Pirates of the Caribbean? Or did they need all that money to jazz-up Club 33 way over at Disneyland, so that the likes of Leonardo DeCapprio and Justin Beiber can sit around sipping Champaign? The Coney Islandification continues….

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      Actually, I think this is one coaster that grandma and the whole family CAN ride together.

      While they certainly could have built more show scenes and built the mountain UP to contain more coaster section, it’s still a solid C+ attraction and much needed in that section of the park.

      I’m quite pleased with the deep attention to detail and theme. For what it is, it’s a home run.

    • mistryl

      For what it’s worth, my entire family rode it. Kids, parents, and grandparents. Grandma actually has an easier time on the Mine Coaster than she does on Pirates because of all the boat bumping. Go figure.

  • Omnispace

    It’s good to see an attraction that steps outside of the box a bit from what we have seen before. Even though some aspects of it are borrowed a bit from here and there, it’s still fairly solid as a Fantasyland attraction. The swinging cars sound like they didn’t quite capture the personality of the Seven Dwarfs. Perhaps if they try this again, they can evaluate something more in the realm of a tamed wild mouse coaster that can make the unexpected dips and turns one would expect in such a setting. The thrill wouldn’t necessarily come from huge hills and big turns but from the element of surprise. It also seems like the most popular part is the dark ride scene. Hopefully we will be seeing more of that in the future.

  • danielz6

    I think snow whites scary adventures is better, despite being 60 years older. It tells more of the story, and a coaster is unnecessary as a ride system for this particular story. It doesn’t matter I guess, when you squeeze an attraction into the middle of a land that’s designed for meet and greets and retail space I didn’t expect much anyways.

    • jon81uk

      It doesn’t need to tell the same story as Scary Adventure did. I think the Mine looks cool because it is more about the Dwarves and less about Snow. This is why I hate the Little Mermaid ride, it just repeats the movie with lazy plasticky animatronics. Attractions, even when based off a movie need some originality.

  • thebear

    Are people commenting on their own experience on the ride or just drawing conclusions based on what has been reported? Knowing the difference would make the thoughts expressed more meaningful. I have a fastpass for the ride for a week from Thursday. Not sure how great it is but I’m sure it is a huge improvement over the Winnie the Pooh park that use to be there. I never took my family there, even when the kids were babies.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Prior to the Winnie the Pooh park, it was 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.