Yesterday morning, Walt Disney World soft opened the first phase of the New Fantasyland expansion just in time to meet the heavy crowds arriving to the Magic Kingdom for the spring break season. Despite the extremely busy park, fans who showed up to experience the new Storybook Circus were delighted to find a high-quality, highly-immersive, relaxing, inviting, and completely enjoyable new land, a welcome replacement of the colorful chaos of Mickey’s Toontown Fair.
Though the entirety of Storybook Circus is not yet open, this first phase offers much promise for the future of not only the rest of the land but also the rest of the New Fantasyland expansion, opening in many more phases through 2014. The attention to detail and carefully-planned themes featured throughout what has been seen of Storybook Circus so far has excited even jaded Disney fans who were previously ambivalent toward the Toontown replacement. And even with only three former attractions now reopened - Dumbo, The Barnstormer, and the Fantasyland Train Station - the new area does nothing short of impress.
Just what is so special about Storybook Circus? Take a look at highlights of the partially-opened land as well as an unedited walkthrough in the two videos below.
Video: Storybook Circus highlights including Dumbo, The Barnstormer, and Fantasyland Train Station
Video: Full Storybook Circus walkthrough on opening day of phase one
Storybook Circus is still surrounded by construction walls, as is much of the New Fantasyland expansion. The path to the circus begins by the Mad Tea Party and continues down a winding road of red and green temporary walls while work continues. But even amidst the construction, the details shine through.
In the distance beyond the Mad Tea Party tea cups, Storybook Circus begins to emerge from beyond the trees.
This Storybook Circus preview sign is the first to show off Humphrey the Bear as being part of the new land, along with Goofy, Casey Jr, and Pete. But only Goofy's Barnstormer is around right now.
Green construction walls turn to red, matching much of the Storybook Circus decor.
New trash can designs mirror the big top motif.
Storybook Circus Cast Members sport fun new costume designs.
Just inside Storybook Circus, guests first encounter the new Dumbo - or at least half of it. Only one of two carousels of this "double Dumbo" is open now. The circus tent indoor queue isn't ready for its debut quite yet either.
The new clockwise-spinning Dumbo is rich with detail and vibrant color.
The surrounding area sports decor that matches Dumbo's new look.
More themed trash cans brighten up Storybook Circus.
As day turns to night, multi-colored LED lights illuminate Dumbo's new water fountains.
And after dark, the flying elephants glow in a rainbow of colors.
Video: Dumbo lights up at night with multi-colored fountains in Storybook Circus
Though Dumbo isn’t the only attraction open in this first phase of Storybook Circus, it is the most visually appealing. Don’t miss our closer look at the new Dumbo.
All of Storybook Circus features textured paths for guests to cross.
Hidden within these walkways, guests will encounter a variety of footprints from a variety of characters. A circus of animals has certainly come to town.
The Barnstormer returns from Mickey's Toontown Fair with a new look, now featuring Goofy as the Great Goofini. The video below offers highlights of the new version of the classic roller coaster.
Video: The Barnstormer featuring The Great Goofini in Storybook Circus
Goofy is always "out flying" as guests approach the Barnstormer's new entrance.
Weathered signs help emphasize the notion that the circus recently moved in.
Tiger Juggling is among Goofy's acts - one performance only!
Goofy takes to the water occasionally too.
He's not so successful when it comes to wrestling.
And then there's the act he's most famous for in this circus.
The Barnstormer barn is almost unrecognizable from its former Toontown state, though it along with the ride's track exist in exactly the same spots.
Goofy once tried flying high by shooting himself out of a cannon.
But that act didn't end well.
Similarly, a rocket ride didn't go quite according to plan.
These fun elements are all part of the Barnstormer's new outdoor queue.
Guests can pose with the Wheel of Peril. Watch out for flying knives!
Though the track remains the same, the Barnstormer roller coaster is far more visually appealing now, more open to the surrounding area.
A giant new billboard serves as the focal point as guests "crash" through on every ride.
The Barnstormer is a short ride intended for children, but clearly guests of all ages can enjoy it.
The lift hill brings passengers through a checkered beginning.
It looks like Goofy paved the way for this track by blasting through.
Smiles start every ride on the Barnstormer.
Most of Storybook Circus is themed to look like it recently was hastily set up. The nearby Fantasyland Train Station sports an entirely different look and feel, with a more permanent and elegant new building.
The Walt Disney World Railroad system is a great way to get around the Magic Kingdom and it will help to have this station now open once again.
The Fantasyland Train Station's new look takes inspiration from Walt Disney's own railroad in his backyard.
The Carolwood Pacific Railroad was Walt Disney's own personal train before he built Disneyland.
The train station is an inviting place to wait to board the railroad.
The brick-covered backside of the Fantasyland Train Station offers a new pair of lovely-looking restrooms.
But all is not complete, with a long construction wall just across from the train station.
More detail can be found in the walkways around the train station, such as these embedded peanut shells. There is a circus nearby, after all.
The Walt Disney World Railroad still rides down the same tracks it has for years.
On busy days, the railroad is one of the best ways to get around the park, if you don't mind the wait.
The far side of the Fantasyland Train Station offers another color scheme.
Cargo and luggage sits outside the train station.
It seems passengers that ride the Walt Disney World Railroad are well-traveled.
All is not yet complete, with Storybook Circus tents still under construction just behind the walls.
Flowers help decorate the area, drawing attention away from the ongoing construction nearby.
As day turns to night, a sunset illuminates the New Fantasyland skyline.
Storybook Circus is even more gorgeous after dark when all is lit up.
Deep, rich colors and soft orange hues coat Storybook Circus after dark.
Unlike the old Dumbo near Cinderella Castle, the Storybook Circus version is entirely enjoyable whether riding or not.
The multi-colored lights on Dumbo are a focal point of the beautiful new area.
Storybook Circus is far from complete. Disney has yet to reveal the contents of its many large circus tents, including the indoor Dumbo interactive queue, Pete’s Silly Sideshow, and whatever Humphrey the Bear will be offering. There will surely be meet-and-greets, merchandise, and food available when it’s all complete.
But even this first phase of Storybook Circus was enough to excite those looking forward to New Fantasyland, offering a glimpse at the level of detailed work that Imagineers have been creating for the biggest Magic Kingdom expansion ever. Everything that was wrong about Mickey’s Toontown Fair is now right with Storybook Circus and guests of the theme park have a new relaxing and immersive environment to enjoy while Disney continues to create new magic in the years to come.
More photos of Storybook Circus, phase one, at the Magic Kingdom:
In honor of Walt Disney's birthday, we take a spoiler-free look at Saving Mr. Banks as it heads into theaters soon. We also learn all about the Walt Disney Birthplace Preservation Project, restoring Walt's birth home.
Inside the Magic is your ultimate source for Disney news and theme park fun.
Based out of Orlando, Florida, Inside the Magic was launched in 2005 by Ricky Brigante. The Inside the Magic podcast has since become the longest-running Disney podcast in the world, with a new show having been released each week since its inception.
Inside the Magic currently features that same weekly podcast about Disney and theme park topics but also regularly brings you high-quality videos from attraction openings and special events, exclusive interviews, news, photos, reviews, and much more.