New Fantasyland officially opens in Orlando


Share
Posted Online: Dec. 06, 2012, 12:43 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Derrick Weitlich and his friend Leslie Martinez arrived at the Magic Kingdom at 5:40 a.m. Thursday, wanting to be among the first to visit the park's New Fantasyland.

Getting up early was worth it, said these Melbourne, Fla., Disney fans, who estimated that they have visited the park some 180 times.

'I love Beauty and the Beast,' said Martinez, while standing in front of the new Gaston's Tavern restaurant. 'And I'm very picky when it comes to details about Beauty and the Beast.'

Martinez and Weitlich weren't disappointed. From the antlers lining the walls in the tavern to the animatronic Ariel in the Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid ride, they were impressed with the New Fantasyland.

It's the largest expansion project in the park's 41-year history. The new spaces are built on what was once the site of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea experience, and the expansion doubles the size of the original Fantasyland. The central Florida theme park near Orlando is blending classic Disney characters (like Dumbo, the flying elephant) and newer, popular hits (like 'The Little Mermaid') with the multimillion dollar expansion.

'It's really about immersing people in a number of stories, characters and music that they love,' said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs.

New Fantasyland sits just past Cinderella Castle, with two sections: Enchanted Forest, where visitors will find Belle from 'Beauty and the Beast' and Ariel from 'The Little Mermaid,' and Storybook Circus, which is inspired by the Disney film 'Dumbo.'

Among the highlights: a ride called Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, which tells Ariel's story, and Enchanted Tales With Belle, a walk-through experience that features a magical mirror and costumed characters.

Staggs said that the expansion allows families to 'be a little more relaxed' while in the park, calling the spaces 'more enjoyable.'

Thursday's grand opening happened twice: once for media and bloggers in front of Gaston's Tavern and then again on the steps of Cinderella Castle, with cheering park visitors. Staggs was joined by actress Ginnifer Goodwin, singer Jordin Sparks and, of course, Mickey Mouse. Sparks sang a medley of songs from Disney movies.

Two of New Fantasyland's highlights have yet to open. A ride called Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is still under construction, as is Princess Fairytale Hall where guests can go to meet all of their favorite Disney princesses at once. Disney officials said the princess experience will open next year and the ride is expected to open in 2014.

For Disney traditionalists, never fear: Many of the park's longstanding beloved attractions like Cinderella Castle, and rides based on 'It's a Small World' and 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' remain open.

Be Our Guest Restaurant is new, and offers a different Disney concept. Folks who eat lunch will be served at the counter, while dinner guests will be served tableside. It will also serve wine and beer with dinner, which is the first time alcohol is being sold at the Magic Kingdom. The meals at Be Our Guest are French-themed.

Some old favorites have been improved. An additional Dumbo ride was added one Dumbo carousel goes clockwise, the other counter-clockwise two castles were built and the Barnstormer rollercoaster was remodeled. Other areas were spruced up and redecorated.

'I think they did the themes so well, the transitions from one area to another,' said Weitlich, who is 31. He and Martinez, who is 29, come to the park at least twice a month.

On Thursday, they bought T-shirts that said 'A Brand New Happily Ever After,' posed for photos and drank LeFou's Brew, a sweet drink based on apple juice and toasted marshmallows. The pair said they were going to get to know New Fantasyland just like the rest of the park.

'For not being cast members, we're pretty good,' said Martinez.














 



Local events heading








  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.








(More History)