For anyone following this blog or my social media tweets and updates, you know that I was super excited to be invited to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to see the grand opening of the New Fantasyland Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus.
We have been going to Disney World for decades and I remember the ‘old Fantasyland. I remember being able to take a Gondola from Tomorrowland to the edge of Fantasyland/Liberty Square. I remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and a Snow White’s Adventures (where it was rather frightening in the mind of my six year old self.)
Over the years, I saw the rides close. I also remember when Mickey and Minnie’s Toontown opened. I never went in there because when it opened, I was well into my 20s and didn’t have kids. I just passed by on my way to the big attractions. Then everything seemed to close, save a few things in Fantasyland, in the late 00s. Large fences went up, hammers could be heard, as the magic began to unfold behind closed doors and 140 disciplines began to bring New Fantasyland to life.
According to the Chairman of the Disney Parks, the minute that the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, changes were already being envisioned for Fantasyland. Yet, it wasn’t until the late 00s, that it was time to make it happen. New movies, a new generation of children, and new technology, all played a hand in making the steps towards the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history.
Fantasyland has doubled from 10 acres to 21 acres, and is still growing with new attractions slated to open. In 2013, the Princess Fairytale Hall will make its premiere where you can meet and greet princesses, and in 2014, a rollicking, musical, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will makes its Hi-Ho! Now, however, when you walk behind Cinderella’s castle, you enter the Enchanted Forest (makes sense, right?), There you will find attractions featuring Ariel (Under the Sea-Journey of The Little Mermaid), and Belle and Beast (Enchanted Tales of Belle). These movies and characters come to life as you walk into the castle or go under the sea. Each of these attractions uses technology that is impressive in its own right, but creates an experience like no other with the focus on the Disney tradition of telling a story.
(To see a New Fantasyland Map, click here.)
In the Under the Sea-Journey of The Little Mermaid, you are slowly immersed into this underworld adventure. You arrive at the shoreline of Prince Eric’s Castle and descend through the grottos and caverns, passing by water, barnacles and starfish helping you navigate your way to your clamshell. As you board the clamshell, it will remind you of the Doom Buggies in the Haunted Mansion in both the function and style. In this attraction, the shell rotates backwards, and the sounds of a splash and computer animation bubbles engages your mind so you can easily imagine you are diving under the sea. The magic of Disney, in the art work, ‘set’ design, use of water, waterfalls, fountains, music and more, whisks you to a watery wonder. In Ariel’s Groto, you can meet Ariel, and have another opportunity to emmerse yourself into a fairytale.
The Enchanted Tales with Belle focuses on an intimate experience. The adventure starts on the winding stone pathway to Maurice’s Cottage with Beast’s Castle looming in the distance. It is where an enchanted mirror in Maurice’s Workshop is the doorway to a captivating new kind of storytelling experience. It transports you to Beast’s Castle where you meet Belle and Lumiere in Beast’s Library to hear the ‘tale as old as time’. You’ll become part of the storytelling experience by playing the part of the characters from “Beauty and the Beast”.
If you’d like to dine with Disney magic, then have a ‘great food fast’ experience during the day, or a full table service at night, at the Be Our Guest Restaurant with its elegant Ballroom, Rose Gallery and mysterious West Wing. (To learn more about this Restaurant, read my post here.)
As my family walked through the New Fantasyland Enchanted Forest, and in the back shadows of Cinderella’s castle, I saw Disney characters I have not seen for a long time, and many new ones too, that made our Disney experience truly memorable. It kept the story alive outside of the attractions. While you felt connected to Belle and her tale in the Enchanted Tales of Belle, the story reigns and the fantasy continues, as you walk through the Enchanted Forest on the way to your next adventure. Truly an enchanted space in the Magic Kingdom.
These New Fantasyland Enchanted Forest attraction opportunities, takes us back to a time when our interaction with the characters connected us with the magic of Disney. Plus, nothing embodies this new technology meets storytelling, than an experience I had during the New Fantasyland Opening Celebration. Where as I stared up at the sky, and watched a dragon flying in the sky. I wondered how they did it. How I could be hearing a fire-breathing dragon, and watching it flying under the moon? Then, as I am sure Disney wanted me to, I stopped analyzing and just immersed myself in the blend of technology, imagination, and fantasy.
While I have my own children now (three years old and six months old) this will be our first stop in Magic Kingdom for many years to come. Yet, whether you are single, newly married, a grandparent experiencing the magic with your grandchildren, or just a retired couple, New Fantasyland is a new way to feel like a kid again, in a grown up way. Using the incredible imagination, engineering and technology that Disney has always been known for, but now where we can experience in modern interpretations. It has invigorated the entire Magic Kingdom park where you will feel an new energy, and an embracing of the original Disney Magic with cast interactions taking center stage. Understanding that modern day society thrives on technology and lives in a state of disillusionment, Disney gives us updated technology and opportunities to put our disillusionment hold so we can believe, or want to believe, once again.
To see my review on the New Fantasyland Storybook Circus, click here.
Fun Facts: There are 115 Windows in Beast’s Castle, and over 12,000 “books” in the library at the Enchanted Tales of Belle. In the Journey of the Little Mermaid, there are over 183 characters and over 20,000 live and artificial plants decorating the attraction inside and out.
Here are additional Disney World-related posts to consider:
Let the New Fantasyland Story Begin
‘Twas the Night Before New Fantasyland
Happy Disney Birthday to Me
New Fantasyland Preview Party
Details of the New Fantasyland at Disney
Tips for Visiting Disney World with a Toddler
Orlando Stroller Rental Options
New Year, New Fantasyland
Disney Art of Animation Resort Review
Art of Animation Cars Suite Review
Be Our Guest Restaurant
Typhoon Lagoon Shark Reef
How to Save Money on Souvenirs at Disney World
Image Credit: My own. All Rights Reserved.
Disclosure: I received complimentary airfare, accommodations, and entrance into the Magic Kingdom as a member of the media covering the grand opening of New Fantasyland.