Today In Disney History ~ March 12th

Today In Disney History ~ March 12th


From the Orlando Sentinel, written by Dewayne Bevil, published on March 12, 2012

Fantasyland expansion’s first phase now open

Disney World opened the first phase of its Fantasyland expansion on Monday. Part of the Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus area, featuring new takes on the Dumbo ride and a roller coaster, greeted a throng of spring-break tourists.
The multimillion-dollar expansion, the largest in the Magic Kingdom’s 40-year history, will open in stages as new sections are ready, said Chris Beatty, creative director of the expansion. But Disney has not set time frames or the order the attractions will appear, he said. It is expected to be complete sometime in 2013.

Disney doesn’t want its customers to feel disappointed by unavailable attractions, so it’s smart to open them as soon as possible, said Scott Smith, an instructor with UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
“Everyone who goes there thinks that everything should be open all the time,” he said.

Visitors on Monday saw a new version of the popular Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride and the Barnstormer roller coaster, revamped to fit a circus theme.

Dumbo is “near and dear to everyone out there, so you would want to get it open as quickly as possible,” Smith said.

The Dumbo ride has a new decor and color palette, inspired by vibrant tin toys and carousels of the early 1920s, Beatty said. Golden storks top the ride, followed by a ring of elephants representing Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo’s mother in the 1941 movie.

The ride is ornate, designed for repeated viewing while waiting to board. Some of the look subtly incorporates elephants’ trunks and shelled peanuts, said Beatty.

“We had a lot of fun hiding the little moments,” he said.

Eventually, the ride will have an indoor, interactive queue and be joined by a duplicate Dumbo. The original ride is being refurbished to match the new one, and it will fly side-by-side with it, Beatty said.

The ride vehicles also have a new look — the flying elephants are a lighter gray and, for the first time, they have pink accents on the underside of their ears and feet.

“Dumbo will be the star of the circus when we’re done,” Beatty said.

Storybook Circus comes with a back story: A circus has pulled into the new train station. From there, animal footprints will lead to other attractions. Guests can follow two sets of elephant tracks — as in mother and baby — to the entrance of the Dumbo ride. There are also peanuts embedded into the walkways.

The Barnstormer roller coaster now features Goofy as the Great Goofini, a stuntman for the circus. The coaster has been re-themed to reflect the character’s many circus talents. Props such as a cannon, a smoking rocket and the “wheel of peril” are found along the coaster’s queue. These elements were inspired by the short films of the 1950s that starred Goofy in many roles, Beatty said.

The coaster’s rail has not been altered, but its ride vehicles now race through a couple of new elements, a billboard and a tower.

The reintroduction of the Barnstormer should help with spring-break crowding, especially because the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster is being rehabbed, said Suzannah DiMarzio, who blogs about Disney World at her website

“They have a little roller coaster they can go to, too,” she said.

The Storybook Circus area is set in mythical place called Carolwood Park, a nod to Carolwood Pacific, the backyard railroad Walt Disney created at his California home in the 1950s, Beatty said. “Deep-down” details such as that should appeal to Disney enthusiasts, Beatty said.

“I think the attention to details is really cool,” said Debbie Alexander, an annual-pass holder from Orlando. She saw a post on Twitter about the opening and decided to visit Monday.

“I just can’t wait for the whole thing to open up,” she said.

The expansion also will include a dark ride based on “The Little Mermaid” movie, an area with a “Beauty and the Beast” theme (with a Be Our Guest restaurant) and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster.
Unveiling the new Fantasyland in phases suits DiMarzio.

“As a local, I’m OK with that. But I understand if you’re coming here for your family vacation, it would be a little frustrating not to see everything at once,” she said. “I think that’s what Disney does best is getting people to come back again and again to visit. There’s always going to be something to look forward to.”

TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart” Orlando Sentinel

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