As construction progresses on the New Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World continues to update fans on the latest artistic additions to the highly-detailed area. From the highly-anticipated Be Our Guest restaurant to the Enchanted Tales with Belle interactive meet-and-greet to Orlando’s version of The Little Mermaid ride, fans have a lot to look forward to opening by the end of 2012.
Officially announced as opening some time during “Holidays 2012″ will be Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern, and Ariel’s Grotto. More specifically, at least some portion of these areas will open in mid-to-late November for annual passholder and Cast Member previews.
UPDATE (8/7/12:: Disney has announced the majority of New Fantasyland will open on December 6, 2012, with previews beginning November 19. More details here.
But with months of Fantasyland updates already shared on the official Disney Parks Blog across many posts, it’s easy to miss a few details, so I’ve compiled all their latest sneak peeks below, organized by section as an overview of what’s to come. These photos are all credited to Walt Disney Imagineering, offering early looks behind the construction walls, and each photo is linked to Disney’s original article from which it came.
Enchanted Tales with Belle, Maurice’s Cottage and Gaston’s Tavern
Guests arriving to Belle’s Village will immediately be drawn to a large bronze statue of… Gaston. Though the village isn’t named for him, he’s the center of attention here and he wouldn’t have it any other way. The statue is part of fountain that also features Lefou, marking the entrance Gaston’s Tavern.
And Gaston’s ego shines through inside his Tavern via a large portrait of him in a rather similar pose as his statue.
Also in Belle’s Village is Maurice’s Cottage, home to Belle’s father and an interactive meet-and-greet dubbed Enchanted Tales with Belle. The cottage’s outside features heart carvings, and slightly askew architecture, along with many touches that appear to have been built by Maurice himself, including a weather vane, wishing well, and wooden fence.
Inside Maurice’s Cottage, guests will find a few gadgets he’s been “tinkering” with, as well as bookcases and other decor that set the stage to meet Belle.
And peering out from Maurice’s Cottage, guests can easily spot Beast’s Castle in the distance, leading to the next major section of New Fantasyland.
Be Our Guest restaurant & Beast’s Castle
Two new Disney castles command attention as part of New Fantasyland. Though neither is quite as large as the Magic Kingdom’s iconic Cinderella Castle, both house interesting new attractions for the park.
High atop Disney-created rocky peaks lies Beast’s Castle, a forced-perspective proverbial “castle in the sky,” marking the entrance to the park’s new Be Our Guest restaurant.
Unlike the whimsical feel of Belle’s Village, the approach to Beast’s Castle and Be Our Guest is far more foreboding, with minotaur sculptures flanking its entrance, mirroring Belle’s first entrance into the castle in a scene from “Beauty and the Beast.”
Inside, distressed columns and arches offer glimpses at the damage Beast has caused in his tormented existence within his castle. But glimmers of light shine through the cracks.
Grand chandeliers and lighting fixtures brighten the three dining areas of the Be Our Guest restaurant, each themed to a different location from the animated film. Throughout these rooms, guests will enjoy a menu filled with French delights.
Beast’s Castle wouldn’t be complete without plenty of roses, featured in the Be Our Guest restaurant from floor to ceiling.
Portraits and stained glass also bring character to the restaurant, following’s Beast’s transformation back to human.
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
The other castle Disney has constructed for New Fantasyland is home to Prince Eric of “The Little Mermaid.” It marks the entrance for the new ride, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid.
Though far larger than Beast’s Castle, Prince Eric’s castle also is designed using forced perspective to appear larger than it actually is.
Heading into the attraction, guests will wind through a seaside queue, passing through a grotto decorated with intricate rock sculptures, wrecked ships, and hidden tributes.
The site of The Little Mermaid ride was formerly home to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, so Imagineers have included a tribute by carving the silhouette of a Nautilus submarine into the rock work.
Looking higher up at Prince Eric’s castle, Mediterranean details adorn balconies and beams along with some hand-painted artwork.
Of course, fans curious to see what Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid will be like inside should look no further than the Disney California Adventure theme park at the Disneyland Resort, where the same dark ride opened in 2011.
It’s clear to see that much has changed and progressed throughout the construction site in just a few months, since we toured New Fantasyland in April. This close-up look at New Fantasyland will regularly be updated as the Disney Parks Blog continues to bring fans behind construction walls for stunning looks at previously unseen details throughout the Magic Kingdom expansion.
Also included under the umbrella of the New Fantasyland expansion are Storybook Circus, which is mostly open now, Princess Fairytale Hall, set to open in 2013, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster, which won’t debut until 2014. We’ll save updates on these for a future post, as those opening dates draw nearer.
Slideshow: New Fantasyland expansion through the lens of Walt Disney Imagineering