Recently Disney announced the largest expansion of Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the history of the Magic Kingdom. The new Fantasyland is expected to open in 2012, over 40 years after the debut of Disney World in Orlando.
Included in the expansion is a realm for many of the famous Disney Princesses: Ariel, Belle, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Cinderella. I know that I’ve been down on the Disney Princess theme recently, but I do love the characters and the fantasy they imbue. If ever there were an appropriate time and place for reveling in fairy tales, Disney World is it.
Each of the areas dedicated to the princesses serve as “meet and greets” for visitors to encounter their favorite characters. Cinderella’s realm features a chateau with a windmill, with Cinderella standing outside in her peasant working clothes.
The Fairy Godmother waves her magic wand and bestows Cinderella with a blue gown and glass slippers, and then guests can share a dance with Cinderella to help her prepare for the ball.
At Sleeping Beauty’s cottage, guests have the chance to join the Good Fairies in making cards for Aurora’s 16th birthday, and then surprise the princess herself when she enters the cottage.
Most impressive, however, are the expansions centered on two of Disney’s newer and most popular princesses: Belle and Ariel. Beast’s Castle is one of the largest additions to the new Fantasyland.
First guests meet Belle outside her father’s cottage, and then they move on to Beast’s Castle, where Belle reads them stories in the library. The castle includes at least one a full-service restaurant located within the ballroom. The expansion also includes Gaston’s Tavern.
Ariel’s previous grotto is being relocated to appear alongside a new ride entitled “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Adventure.” Guests can walk along the beach underneath Eric’s castle before finding themselves in an aquarium-like area. A garden and water play area will be featured alongside the ride. A separate version of the ride will open at Disneyland in California in 2011.
In addition to the princess expansion, the new Fantasyland also features Pixie Hollow, where guests can meet Tinker Bell and her friends, and brand new grounds for Dumbo that include an interactive three-ring circus tent.
Some areas will be demolished to make way for the expansion, such as Mickey’s Toontown Fair. But have no fear: Mickey and Minnie will take up newer, fancier residences alongside Main Street.
I’m left to wonder how different Mickey’s new digs will appear, and whether they might incorporate the planned update to his character. Disney officials did hint that part of the changes may include his house at the Magic Kingdom.
Despite my love for Disney I’ve never had the chance to visit any of the parks. Now it seems my childhood patience is paying off. The opening of the new Fantasyland just might be the perfect time to visit.