In early 2010, we took our cameras to the Magic Kingdom to start photographing what would eventually become New Fantasyland. Nearly 100 articles and more than 110 videos later, we still aren't finished.
This will likely be the last time I follow any project with such fervor, we've been expanding our reach beyond Disney and I want to get back to resort walks and more writing. But it’s been pretty spectacular to visit New Fantasyland during previews to see what we’ve been following for so long.
When we first started covering the Fantasyland construction, there was a different Ariel's Grotto than what you'll now find in New Fantasyland. Fantasyland actually lost two children's play areas within a short time – Ariel's Grotto was one, Pooh's Playful Spot was the other. Eventually, the playground in Mickey's Toontown Fair followed when Mickey's Toontown Fair closed forever. And we won't even go back in time to discuss 20,000 Leagues under the Sea!
New Fantasyland is the biggest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. Unfortunately, this expansion isn't coming with many rides, which has been noted more times than I can count online. But the attention to detail in every crevice of the new land is more than I ever expected. The waterfalls that can be found inside the Little Mermaid queue and alongside Be Our Guest Restaurant are exquisite. Look down in the Little Mermaid queue, and you'll find colorful shells in the pavement. The gargoyles that flank the sidewalk to Be Our Guest Restaurant remind me of my trips to France. And Be Our Guest Restaurant itself – what we've seen of it – promises to be a dining experience like no other. I only hope the food is half as unique as the decor is!
I wanted to share some photos of the Enchanted Forest section of New Fantasyland, talking a little bit about our experiences. We were unable to be there during the first preview day (we were photographing a wedding for friends in Pittsburgh), but we had asked our friends Daniel and Corinne to get some coverage from us (they were the first in line on the first day, we have their POV video here!) We have now been in the Enchanted Forest of Fantasyland 3 or 4 times now. Of course, this is in addition to Storybook Circus, which has opened in segments this year.
There will be many more photos coming in updates over the next week.
"Dress Rehearsals" have been nearly constant since last Friday.
This is the first photo we had taken of us in New Fantasyland. We'd arrived from Pittsburgh in the early afternoon, headed to the Swan & Dolphin Food and Wine Classic, capping it off with our first look at this new area. We were really tired, but enjoyed meeting Ariel with her fins.
We made a stop at Gaston's Tavern to try LeFou's Brew. Jeff likes it more than I do, I'm more of a Universal Butterbeer fiend. We do have one souvenir cup with Gaston on it now! These Cast Members were happy to pose for a photo, I didn't even ask them to.
Jeff bought a Pork Shank the next day. At $7.99, I think it's a little too pricey for an item that doesn't include a side of any sort. Jeff enjoyed it, but I think it will be a one-time purchase for research.
There are a lot of great photo opportunities within New Fantasyland! This is in Gaston's Tavern, Jeff tried coaxing this boar to have a drink. 🙂
We met Gaston in front of his Tavern. Gaston is a pretty popular character, and many guests will appreciate having him for meet-and-greets regularly. Each time we see him, a line has formed – but Cast Members have tried to keep from it being that type of experience when we've been there, so Gaston can walk freely. I'd be surprised if that didn't change. We do have a video of Gaston and his tavern!
We first showed you the fountain in front of Gaston's Tavern a few months back. The queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh yielded quite a few "first looks" that we could share with our readers/viewers over the past few months, from Gaston's Statue to the Be Our Guest sign.
Guests are already throwing money in and at the fountain. I'm too cheap to do the same.
I like this angle from inside Gaston's Tavern, looking out the window. The texture of the glass makes for interesting photos.
We had our first look at this Be Our Guest sign a couple of months ago. I really like the design of everything in the Be Our Guest area, including the wall that the sign sits on.
I always like to look for new angles, and framing opportunities. This is Beast's Castle up on the rocks, and it's actually very small. We've shared photos and video in the past of workers next to the castle.
I mentioned that the gargoyles here remind me much of visiting France. I think they add a nice element to the walkway that ends with Be Our Guest Restaurant. The gargoyles also make for lovely photos with a variety of backgrounds, including the waterfall in the first photo. I joked on our Mousesteps Weekly show that their apparent sadness was probably in not getting a reservation for Be Our Guest!
Jeff poses with a gargoyle:
A pair of lions grace the exterior of Be Our Guest Restaurant:
Guests can enter the lobby during previews, but I can't wait to see the rest of the restaurant! Be Our Guest will be a moderately priced sit-down dining venue, and I recommend booking meals well in advance. The Magic Kingdom has needed another table service restaurant for a long time, and hopefully this will help ease the demand. We have a video of Be Our Guest Restaurant, of everything we've been able to see so far.
This gives me the same "wow" factor as the waterfall reveal in Disney California Adventure's Radiator Springs Racers.
Under the Sea – Voyage of the Little Mermaid is very similar as a ride to it's California counterpart, but the queues couldn't be more different. I feel much more like I'm in a "dark ride" in our Fantasyland attraction, probably because the entrance and exit are fully enclosed. The queue here is elaborate, both inside and out.
Sebastian is one of the characters on the attraction sign:
There is a nod to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:
Here are more photos from the outdoor section of the queue:
Part of the queue is like a rotunda, and tells a story in artwork and words. The queue itself has an interactive element to it in the form of a crab, but we didn't really figure out how it worked properly.
Scuttle appears in several areas, including as an audio-animatronic in the queue. Here he is at the beginning of the ride.
We had the opportunity to take a tour a few years ago that included a look at this scene as it was being built for Disney's California Adventure.
There are many French references throughout the Beauty and the Beast section.
I recommend not running to the Little Mermaid attraction right away when visiting New Fantasyland, but heading to Enchanted Tales with Belle first. Enchanted Tales has a very small capacity in comparison with Little Mermaid. At times when we were able to walk right onto the Little Mermaid, there was often 30 – 40 minute wait for Enchanted Tales with Belle. Our first of two visits to Enchanted Tales seemed crowded, and I didn't have a good spot to see from (I'm fairly short!) The second time, only 25 guests were in our group, and I had a great view of the Magic Mirror, which is the most impressive part of this experience. The Wardrobe is a terrific aspect of the attraction too, and kids will especially love getting to be part of the interactive show with Belle.
The Enchanted Forest of New Fantasyland has been open to all guests for previews since Friday, but soon should be limited to Cast Members, followed by Annual Passholders and D23 members. I expect these previews to be a little busier than what I've experienced so far. The Grand Opening of New Fantasyland will be on December 6th! Keep watching Mousesteps for many more photos of the Enchanted Forest section of New Fantasyland! And there is still more to come in the future, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – scheduled to open by sometime in 2014.