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DIsney Fantasyland expansion: It's all in the details

FL dumbo
I'm getting confused about Fantasyland's new castles.  "No, that one is Prince Eric's castle. It will house the Little Mermaid ride," says Chris Beatty, of Walt Disney Imagineering. The one on the left is Beast Castle, which will house the big Be Our Guest restaurant. In between are Maurice's workshop, where a magic mirror will lead to storytelling with Belle and Lumiere; Gaston’s Tavern (despite its name, it will not have beer); and Bonjour! Village Gifts. Much of the exterior of these buildings is done.

Chris is giving me a tour behind the construction wall of the Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom. The first elements opened this spring -- the Dumbo ride, the Barnstormer roller coaster and the Fantasyland train station. None of those is new but all have been rebuilt or rethemed in some way.

Snow White’s Scary Adventure will close Thursday to make room for Princess Fairytale Hall. Next to open: the Casey Jr. water play area and a second Dumbo ride, scheduled for July.

It's the new attractions – the Little Mermaid Ride, Princess Fairytale Hall, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train -- that have people buzzing, and that's what I'm getting an early look at. I'm not allowed to take photos on the construction site; the best I can do is shoot what's visible to everyone over the fence.

As Chris talks about the construction, what stands out is the attention to detail. No one does detail better than Disney. Consider the rocks in the landscaping.

FL jagged rock-001“There is a lot of storytelling that our rock work artists try to tell as they carve,” Chris says. The rock landscaping that guests will encounter around Beast Castle reflects the Beast's personality when we first meet him. The rock “is sharp, very angular, it has sort of a menacing, foreboding look, and that is intentional … As you enter the castle, there is a transformation we want to happen.” The surroundings are not as dark, and the starkness is softened by carpet and tapestries.

“By the time you enter the restaurant, the light changes. It’s light and warm and golden.”

The rock around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster – which won’t open until 2014, the last big piece of the Fantasyland expansion – “will be very soft and rounded. It will reflect the personality of the Dwarfs.”

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Prince Eric’s Castle, above, home of the Little Mermaid ride, will have waterfalls and rock like you might see around Malibu, the Southern California beach. Where rock has sloughed off, it has come away in big pieces. 

Or take a look at the detail in a finished piece of the project: the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. Dumbo is a beloved ride, both here and in California. So Disney is doubling the pleasure -- Fantasyland will have two Dumbo rides side by side, one turning clockwise, the other counterclockwise.

The old Dumbo needed some refurbishing. It's in place but not yet open. The new one is operating though. Ever think about the decor on a ride? On Dumbo, everything has significance, everything ties back to the original story. So the detail on the top of the ride is rich in symbolism.

Dumbo stork

On top is the stork delivering Dumbo. Below that is his mother, proud that Dumbo can fly.

Dumbo the rest
On the level below the proud mom, you see a peanut, its parts splayed out like a seashell. Below, those aren't just squiggles, those are elephant trunks.

Etched into the asphalt around the ride are big and little elephant foot prints, hay, and bananas. Like I said, Disney does detail better than anyone.