The recent 2011 D23 Expo offered attending Disney fans a chance to get updated on all ongoing Disney projects by getting up-close views of concept artwork, scale models, and even face-to-face conversations with Walt Disney Imagineers.
Inside the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion, one of the most impressive features was the large model of the New Fantasyland expansion for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park. This model, coupled with insight from lead Imagineers on the project standing nearby, offered new details on what can be expected when the new park areas open.
Standing next to the massive 1/4 scale model of the New Fantasyland expansion, I spoke at length with Walt Disney Imagineer Scott Mallwitz, concept architect on the project. In our chat, Mallwitz detailed all that’s coming to the Magic Kingdom as part of this largest-ever expansion for the park, including new details about Storybook Circus and when guests can expect each area of the expansion to open:
Video Interview: Imagineer Scott Mallwitz about the New Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom
The most important detail to come out of this interview is an idea for when each of the phases of the expansion will open.
New Fantasyland expansion opening timeline
(Note: This timeline was updated on 8/7/12)
Being in mid-2011 now, by the current projected timeframe, all phases of the New Fantasyland expansion won’t be completely open for roughly 2.5 years. Mallwitz did emphasize there will be “micro-phases” within each of these timelines, so not all attractions grouped together above will necessarily open at exactly the same time. With so many new attractions coming to the Magic Kingdom, it’s likely each major addition, such as The Little Mermaid ride and Be Our Guest restaurant, will open on the same day, but rather within a few weeks of each other.
Beyond the phased opening timeline, here are a few highlights and new details that came out of the interview surrounding specifics of New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus…
Storybook Circus attractions
Since the first New Fantasyland announcement back at the 2009 D23 Expo, we’ve known about the double-carousel Dumbo with air-conditioned “Big Top” interactive queue area that’s on the way for Storybook Circus:
And we know about the Great Goofini roller coaster, which is a re-themed version of the classic Barnstormer attraction:
But what exactly is the story of Storybook Circus and what other attractions will be found within? Mallwitz was kind enough to finally answer these questions, at least in part.
As the story goes, a spur track has been “added” to the Fantasyland Railroad and the famous Casey Jr. train from “Dumbo” has come down that new track to unload a 1930s/40s circus in Fantasyland.
Not only is Dumbo part of the circus, but also a few additional acts as well. Pete’s Silly Sideshow will be a meet-and-greet featuring characters from “all over the world” – all familiar faces with circus-themed appearances. As an example, Mallwitz offers The Great Donaldo, a new role for Donald Duck to play as a “very famous snake charmer from the Far East.”
Beyond the sideshow, Big Top Souvenirs will offer the obligatory shop for Storybook Circus, in the same location as the former store for Mickey’s Toontown Fair.
We can expect see half of Storybook Circus open in 2012, with the rest making its debut in 2013.
New Fantasyland entrance, castle wall and forest
A new Cinderella Castle wall erected near the existing carousel will serve as the transition between the castle courtyard and new Fantasyland forest. The “tournament look” of the castle area will disappear beyond the wall into lush landscaping with plenty of trees, waterways, and winding paths immersing guests into an environment unlike anything seen before at the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland.
It is within this new forest that stories live, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Winnie the Pooh,” and “Snow White.”
Here guests will find the new ride based on The Little Mermaid, a version of which recently opened at the Disney California Adventure theme park. According to Mallwitz, guests will be able to approach Prince Eric’s castle because “the tide has gone out”, though some “tide pools” will linger amidst “castle caverns” that form the “underside” or “foundation” of the castle, where the ride’s interactive queue will reside.
And the recently-removed Ariel’s Grotto will return beside her attraction, with a chance to meet The Little Mermaid herself in a natural setting surrounded by rocks and waterfalls.
Nearby, the Be Our Guest restaurant in Beast’s castle, and an elaborate meet-and-greet with Belle, featuring an advanced Audio-Animatronics version of Lumiere, along with a few other magical Disney touches.