A week ago, Disney announced some pretty major changes to its Orlando park. Fantasyland, located at the Magic Kingdom, will be almost completely rehauled "“ and by the time it's all over, it will have nearly doubled in size. Lots of people speculate that this is in direct response to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, set to open next year. In case you haven't been obsessively monitoring the news, here's what's happening:
2. Princess Meet-and-Greets. If you've been to Disney World, and especially if you have a princess-obsessed daughter, you know that you can already meet the princesses. They're awkwardly housed in a tent in the Mickey's Toontown Fair area of the park. The new version is a large part of the expansion "“ each of the main princesses will have her own small castle and a place to interact with her tiny guests. Princess Aurora is holding a Sweet 16 Party at her house, because she missed hers while she was cat-napping. Cinderella cleans the house but then transforms into her blue ballgown finery "in front of your very eyes" (a little adult, Disney?). And Belle really gets the royal treatment "“ you meet her in her father's cottage, but then the Enchanted Mirror takes you to the Beast's Castle. Which brings us to"¦
3. The Beast's Castle.
Among the things in it will be a "Be Our Guest" sit-down restaurant (do you think the waiters will have to burst into song every so often like at Texas Roadhouse? Ugh.) and Gaston's Tavern. The tavern will be all tricked out with taxidermy "“ Gaston's trophies, presumably. Now, this prompts the question "“ will Gaston's tavern actually serve alcohol? It's been a pretty hard line for years that alcohol will never be served at the Magic Kingdom (the other parks will give you a coldie, no problem), so will this finally nip that in the bud? I think after running the princess gauntlet, parents might really appreciate an adult beverage afterward. I know my dad would. Not because of the trip through the princesses, but just because he has always good-naturedly complained about the lack of beer there.
6. Star Tours II. This is actually at Hollywood Studios, not the Magic Kingdom, but it was announced at the same time. This ride has been loooong overdue for an update, if you ask me. Even my husband, who absolutely adores Star Wars, went on the ride and was terribly disappointed by what an outdated clunker it was. But no fear "“ it looks like a fabulous, high-tech update is coming our way in 2013. Errr"¦ 2011, according to Darth.
7. TTFN, Toontown. With all of these new improvements that will surely take up a lot of real estate, something's gotta give "“ and it's Mickey's Toontown Fair. It was kind of fun walking through Mickey and Minnie's house playing with the oversized props, but overall, I think Toontown Fair is kind of a waste of space. And Disney doesn't seem to know what to do with it either "“ over the years it's been Mickey's Birthday Land and Mickey's Star Land before finally becoming the Toontown Fair in 1996. They're keeping the Barnstormer, a popular rollercoaster, but the word is that it will be re-themed to tie in with Dumbo's three-ring circus.
So those are all of the big changes for now. What do you think? Cool? Over-hyped? Much-needed? I think it's a little of all of the above. Fantasyland was getting slightly dated, but I also think they are really milking that Princess cash cow. Which I suppose is their job to do!
Share your thoughts in the comments "“ and what do you think needs the next re-do? I think the Great Movie Ride could use some updated movies.
Oh, one last thing "“ they also announced the title and release date of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean (On Stranger Tides, summer 2011). Maybe that in and of itself wasn't that thrilling, but the way they did it was pretty sweet. Can you imagine how excited the people who were at the expo must have been? OK, anyway, have a good weekend and enjoy the clip!