Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The FantasyLand Expansion, That isn't an exansion at all!

Alright, this is another thing that has been bugging me lately.

With all this buzz surrounding Magic Kingdom and the new "FantasyLand Expansion" with opening dates looming in quickly for the new "Dueling Dumbos" as well as the opening of Phase 1. Which is the first portion to open here in April.  It included the area previously known as "Mickey's Toontown Fair" which is currently slated to be renamed "Storybook Circus" (also known to those of us who've been around a while as Mickey's Birthday Land and Mickeys StarLand) I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why this isn't an expansion at all.

It is actually putting FantasyLand back to it's proper capacity of rides and attractions before the lovely 1990's and Eisners reign of "Close ALL the Things!" as I've come to call it.

Let's take a look!

Mickey's Toontown Fair
(AKA: Mickey's Birthday Land and Mickey's StarLand)
Opening in 1988, originally meant to only a temporary 'land' designed to celebrate Mickey Mouse's 60th Birthday. It opened to much hype, the Magic Kingdom Railroad was expanded to have a station there as well as having the trains decorated. Guests at the time received a "Surprise Birthday Invitation" (in the form of their guide map and an announcement) to Mickey's Surprise Birthday Party being thrown by Minnie Mouse. The area its-self was suppose be Duckburg (from Duck Tales Fame) where all the characters had homes and lived.
Basically it was quickly thrown together and only meant to last around two or three years having only temporary attractions: A petting zoo, Mickey's House and the Surprise Birthday Show, Mickey Mouse Meet and Greet as well as the Magic Kingdom Railroad Station.  The area also had a small snack bar type area as well as two small shopping areas.
Look, it's all shiny and new!
In 1990 at the end of the big Birthday Party they decided to keep the area and thus a re-name of "Mickey's StarLand". Nothing much changed but the show which was altered to feature the most popular characters of the Afternoon cartoons at the time. The character list was changed randomly as characters and shows gained and waned in popularity. I believe a small garden and hedge maze where added to the landscaping at this point also.

By 1996 the temporary buildings where in bad shape, things where once again re-modeled to make them more long lasting and 'permanent' as well as cartoon-y, appearing other then just large tents. This is when the most current 're-name' came into play and the area became "Mickey's Toontown Fair". During this peroid the show was again changed to be "Hall of Fame" for your Mickey and Friends characters, Goofy's Barnstormer was added in the place of the Petting Zoo. Otherwise it was the same small and rather tired area as it's original opening.

Okay Carrie, what the hell are you on about with this "Not an Expansion crap?!"

Looks pretty, doesn't it?
 Good question! Let's get into that but first let me say, I am NOT a fan of Mr. Eisner (who shall now be called throughout this post as "Talking Head") so you can expect nothing complimentary out of me in his regard.
This deep slippery slope beings with the death of Frank Well's in 1994, this is when the Talking Head got his grubby claws into the Disney Company with complete control and zero ego-checks.
However since the Talking Head isn't today's topic I shall try to keep my bashing to a low drone in the back of your brains (Remember: He killed Figment!).

In 1994 the face of FantasyLand began to change rather drastically. Original attractions began to close up slowly but surely, piece by piece due to the dislike of Mr. Talking Head and other smaller talking heads whom he listened too.

This is the current list of completely "GONE" attractions:
20,000 Leagues under the Sea.
SkyWay to Tomorrowland.

Now, let's look at what's opening:
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Dueling Dumbo *Side 2*

We took two away and we're only adding, wait for it, TWO attractions!

20,000 Leagues closed.
This is when many of us started to become angry. 

It closed in 1994 under the guise of "Re-refurbishment" which was many of us found out the hard way, really meant "FOREVER" in Disney-ese. It was suppose to re-open at one point during the 1996 season but was completely sabotaged by management, who disliked the ride so very much that they purposely had a Senior VP sign it's death sentence threw their own evil inclinations.
I'm not going to get into the whole story but please, go read it yourselves at 20K History.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Arial Shot

One Down.

The SkyWay to Tomorrow/FantasyLand.

Well this is a much harder one to pin down, it closed off and on at random until around 2008.
I've checked out dozens of rumors about the closure but can't honestly find a single hard fact on the matter. The truth is we'll probably never really know the real reason but speculation has run the gambit for the same problems the DisneyLand attraction had (stress fractures within the wires and towers) to something as simple as lack of popularity. I'm disinclined to believe "lack of popularity" because anyone who's ever seen the SkyWay has surely seen the lines it produced to ride over half the park from the air. It was hugely popular which has lead me to a theory which sounds far more plausible "Low Rider Capacity".

SkyWay to Tomorrowland/FantasyLand

Let us pause to mourn a moment.

Okay so since 1994, FantasyLand has been down one key attraction.
In the effort of time and saving your eyes, I won't go into the wide and various changes threw the years to the other attractions of the area. Meaning, I'm NOT going to rant about Mr. Toads Wild Ride at this moment. I'll get to that later, I promise!

See, I told you I was angry.

The Reality of the 'Expansion'

While I've personally got high hopes for Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid from what I seen in it's clone attraction in DisneyLand I'm not sure it will prove to be the type of classic attraction which has sticking power. On the other hand, every little girl (myself included) wanted to be a Disney Princess, so let's put this at a 50/50 shot.  It's not going to be the Haunted Mansion but it looks pretty good and the themeing is beautiful however it's a single omnimover attraction which is taking up a huge piece of space but at least it's a ride.
However this creates an interesting problem for DisneyWorld. Hollywood Studios currently has a live-action stage show called 'Voyage of the Little Mermaid' which is wildly popular, it's fate is currently unknown as no one can say if they will keep two very similar attractions in the same cluster of parks.

Another huge section of this 'Expansion' is a themed area for Beauty and the Beast, with shops and a restaurant. Not a single attraction to be found, personally on the level of keeping DisneyLand and DisneyWorld separate and non-stagnant I'd have loved to see an omnimover dark ride like "Under the Sea" but themed to Beauty and the Beast. It would have been original as well as giving Florida and California a good variation on their princess attractions. While the area is shaping up to be beautifully on par with themeing and setting, there is little to keep or bring people into that area after the 'newness' wears off.

Dueling Dumbos
Oh yes, I'm going there. 
Okay, it's Dumbo. I get it, I really do.
Every parent ever to step foot within DisneyWorld has the picture of their kid riding dumbo but what is it really? A spinning lifter ride, identical to Astro Orbiter but themed with cute elephants sporting big ears.  It's adorable. It's sugary. It's a carnival ride.
Putting in two of them will help the crowds and give more people the change to experience the attraction, being as it's classic Disney I can't bash it to much because I'd honestly give birth to an elephant if they dared to remove it permanently. However I can't see this single attraction honestly needing it's own complete 'land within a land' but it works since they are re-using the BarnStormer coaster (now to be called 'The Great Goofini') so I'll just let this be and hope that with the themeing complete and both of the new 'Dueling Dumbos' running and a new, hugely open path threw FantasyLand all shall be well.

But what about Snow White and the Mine Train Coaster?!

Oh yes, what about that?
They are removing the classic Snow White's Scary Adventure to replace it with a 'mine train coaster' which really isn't even going to be a proper 'coaster' of any sort. It's more along the lines of a slow moving gravity railroad with some breaks and a possible small push of speed to escape from all things I've seen so far.  Let's face it, it's aimed at the ankle-biter age group so there isn't going to be any real 'thrill' to the attraction. Although I am pleased they plan to add in many animatronics to tell the story of Snow White or at least the portion which involves her time with the Seven Dwarfs.  The current location of Snow White's Scary Adventures will be taken over by a large Princess Meet and Greet currently called "Princess Fairytale Hall", there are currently no real details of that this will involve.
So when you stop and look at this what do we have? One added and one removed. Our numbers are still completely even!

As I said, I am loathe to be pleased with anything that removes a classic DisneyWorld attraction but again, I do have hopes that this at least will be a good and proper replacement for the classic story and attraction Walt Disney himself gave to us.

Just Remember, Walt Disney LOVED new technology and always wanted to be on top of using them in his works. It's how I get threw the day when thinking about these things, Mr. Disney would have done it himself had he still been with us today and it would have come a LOT sooner too!

So there you have it my friends, there isn't really an expansion as they keep saying. It's really just putting in two high ticket attractions to replace what they've already removed from the area years ahead of time. When you think about it this way, we're not really getting anything except having FantasyLand put back into proper balance.

Before: 1989

Concept model for the New FantasyLand.

Now you also need to keep in mind, we don't know entirely where this is all really going. I've heard rumors flying that classics such as Peter Pan and Small World will eventually be integrated into this "New FantasyLand". No one knows exactly what that means except for those getting paid far more money then I and who work for Disney still. Somehow I doubt we'll know their plans before they are ready to spill the proverbial beans on just what these rumors/statements will mean for the future.

If you'd like to take a look at the current work, themeing and building spree going on in regards to FantasyLand I'd suggest heading over to those nice people at Orlando Park News. They always have current and updated photos weekly of the process and also a great back-log of photos to see how everything happened. 

I got a little photo happy going threw my childhood years and I'm far to lazy to scan things. So here is where I accredit my picture borrowing for those who did the work:
FantasyLand Opening Timeline 
The Disney Blog 

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