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Trouble in Fantasyland

So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.  – Willy Wonka

Wow! How time flies. My summer has flown by, and I’ve had very little time to write. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve started probably 5 or 6 posts since early June, but just can’t find the time to finish them.

The news and rumors out of Disney has been very active as well. Just recently, rumors started circulating the Internet recently about potential revisions in plans for the new Fantasyland Expansion. Supposedly, upper management at Disney are having second thoughts about the original plans for WDW’s Fantasyland Expansion (FLE) that was announced at last year’s D23 convention and the fact that many of the new additions were too heavily focused toward girls and left out the boys. This comes after the somewhat somewhat strange bit of news earlier in the summer where Disney announced out of the blue that they were renaming Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel to “Prince Charming Regal Carrousel”.

Update: 8/13/2010 - It’s no longer a rumor. The Orlando Sentinel reported on 8/12 that Fantasyland Plans are changing.

With the revisions, begun under new Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs, designers are attempting to rebalance the plans, which initially tilted heavily towards young girls by emphasizing attractions and experiences built around Disney’s stable of animated-movie princesses.

“We took a hard look at it amongst a number of us and said, ‘Can we make the appeal broader? Can we make it even better?’ “ Staggs said during an interview this week with the Orlando Sentinel.

Specific details weren’t given on what changes were being made, but speculation is that Pixie Hollow may be stricken from the new expansion as well as some of the new princess meet and greet areas. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Perhaps they will show something at the next D23 convention or maybe online on their blog.

While Disney hasn’t said anything officially about why they chose now to give this attraction a new story and name after 39 years, I believe it may just be an acknowledgement that someone at WDI or Disney corporate agrees with mine and many others’ sentiment that there’s too much girly stuff being added in the new Fantasyland expansion. Of course they’re not going to just come out and say that, but I think that may just be the case.  You can read more about the renaming and the new story line here.

Last year when it was announced at D23 that Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland would get a major expansion, many people were ecstatic about the plans.  And, while it’s exciting to think about what’s coming, I couldn’t help but think that it was just a little too heavy on the Princesses, and may turn away some of the younger male audience. My wife disagrees with me on this and says a lot of the rest of Magic Kingdom is geared heavily toward boys, so this expansion is perfect and helps balance the park. Agree or not though, I still think the expansion could use a bit more male influence to keep from scaring off little boys who might think or perceive that this is “Princess Land”. I know Dumbo will still be there, and they will be assumedly re-theming Goofy’s Barnstormer, but still it just feels a bit heavily tilted to little girls.

Here’s a few of my own ideas to maybe tilt the scale back toward the boys a little.

I was looking over some of the plans (again) and reading the description for what they’re planning to do for Beauty and the Beast.

The Beauty and the Beast adventure will begin at Belle’s village when guests visit her father’s cottage. A magic mirror will transport guests to the Beast’s castle where they will have an opportunity to retell the Beauty and the Beast story by performing it for Belle. Hungry thespians will then be able to dine in the elegant, 552-seat Be Our Guest restaurant inside Beast’s castle or grab a quick bite at Gaston’s Tavern.

There’s no word on how guests will be “magically” transported  to the Beast’s castle. Perhaps buying a trinket in the gift shop will do the trick. The “magic mirror” sounds interesting, but pretty mysterious at this point. Hopefully it’s more than just a fancy, disguised doorway that leads to a tunnel to the Beast’s castle. I think Gaston’s Tavern will help curb some of the “princess” over-tones, but I’m not sure it will do enough to attract boys en masse into the area.

I like the fact that they’re adding Belle’s dad, Maurice’s cottage (or, they were at one point), but I think they’re possibly missing out on a potential entertainment option that might appeal to boys. My thoughts would be, instead of just creating a cottage that serves merely as some kind of magical gateway to the Beast’s castle, why not play on the whole “crazy inventor” character that they crafted for the movie. Go ahead and use the cottage idea, but make it so guests travel into the cellar of the cottage where Maurice has created a new invention that will magically transport you to the Beast’s castle (hopefully). The story would be,  after winning first place at the fair for his log splitting machine (from the movie), he would be hard at work creating something new in the cellar. There would also be remnants of other of his inventions in various stages, plus lots of drawings of his ideas. They could add lighting and sound effects to the upstairs dining hall that would in effect be caused by Maurice and another of his inventions being tested or blowing up.

Another thought would be an adventure ride using the EMVs like the ones used in Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. The story could be that Maurice has created a horseless wagon, but it’s not quite ready yet. However, Belle has disappeared and is lost somewhere in the forest. Guests would then board Maurice’s new invention, as a last resort to help find her. The wagon will travel thru the woods, passing various scenes along the way from the movie, eventually arriving at the Beast’s castle.

An idea that was rumored even before the announcements for the FLE is a Seven Dwarves Mystery/Diamond mine ride.  I think they could re-use and re-theme the old Fantasyland skyway area, and the alley between the show buildings for It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion.

Map of Walt Disney World, FL - Bing Maps_1281165005363The coaster would be mostly inside a building so they could use brilliant lighting to show numerous pockets of jewels and of course the dwarves would also be there working/whistling away. The ride itself could use a Mauer-Sohne spinning coaster, like what’s used for Crush’s Coaster at Disneyland Resort Paris.

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The queue would be on the site of the old Fantasyland Skyway station and guests would wind their way up to the top of the “mine shaft” where they would board a mine car. The car would then depart the station and drop off into the mine shaft which would carry the car thru the former alley way toward the back where it would enter the show building and the actual mine. For added effect, it could exit the building occasionally along the banks of the rivers of America where it could be seen by guests passing by on the Liberty Belle riverboat. The ride would wind back and forth thru the mines with some medium spinning motion and then eventually make it’s way back the station where guests would exit underneath the station where they got on the ride.

BlueskyDisney made mention of the rumor for a Seven Dwarves attraction, back in 2008. I think they were the first ones to break the news of the yet announced changes to Fantasyland. Check it out, most of what he uncovered turned out to be true.

While I was researching this posting, I saw an ad for something my wife and I actually stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago. The Gaylord Texan,  just north of Dallas, Texas is having what they’re calling Summerfest where the theme is centered around Alice in Wonderland. We happened to be in the area a couple of weeks ago and stopped in for a little while and were pleasantly surprised at what they had done. Along the paths in their ginormous atrium, they have themed elements and characters from Alice in Wonderland. If you get a chance, go check it out, they’re running it thru September 6th.

I’m not necessarily advocating that Disney should copy what the Gaylord has done, but due to the success of Tim Burton’s newest version of this story, they would appear to have created, or at the least refreshed this story in a way that the public really enjoyed, making it the number 2 movie so far this year, right behind Toy Story 3. So, why not capitalize on the success. Re-theme the Mad Tea Party using colors and styling from the newer movie and maybe even enclose it to help create the illusion of being shrunken. Expand the theme of being shrunken to give a more real sense of it actually happening. Perhaps build a queue of some kind or building that contains a big slide down a “hole” and leads to the queue for the tea party. Sure, it’s still somewhat girly, but the new theme and the slide should help attract more boys. Alternatively, an omnimover type ride could be used to carry guests into Wonderland and down the rabbit hole. AliceInWonderland-DownTheRabbitHole-011

Carsland – retheme Tomorrowland Speedway to Cars, better yet, bring the new ride they’re building at DCA here. Supposedly, Cars merchandise is a big seller, which is one of the main reasons for the second movie and the ride that’s being built in California. So, why not bring that here, or at the least, something along those lines?  I would love to see them build the new ride that’s going into DCA, somewhere at WDW, and there’s actually been some rumors that it may be coming sometime in the next 10 years. And, while I would like to see that, I know it’s an expensive attraction, so I would be almost as happy if they just did an overlay on the Tomorrowland Speedway. This attraction, while still enjoyed by many, has seen its better days, and those cars just make me nauseous.  A  Cars overlay would seem to be a simple solution with a big potential payoff.

I can’t help but think that WDI and TDO missed the boat when they had a chance last year to upgrade Space Mountain when they took it down for a short refurb. At one point there were rumors that they would give it similar treatment to what the ride in Disneyland received when it was refurbed in 2003-05 by adding on-board audio, a new track, and more lighting effects inside. Instead, the plans were changed and shortened and the bulk of the refurb/upgrade work went into the queue. Maybe next time.

The following movies are missing a representative attraction at WDW:

  • Up
  • Mary Poppins
  • Robin Hood
  • Wall-E
  • Mulan
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Fox & the Hound
  • Ratatouille
  • Hercules
  • The Incredibles
  • Aristocats
  • Bambi
  • 101 Dalmations
  • Cars
  • The Princess and the Frog (?)

Stop for a minute and think about some of these movies, the story line and their characters. In my opinion, there are at least 2 movies on the list that would work really well in the new Fantasyland, and that give me inspiration on a possible attraction.

Princess and the Frog dark boat ride. Sure, the movie didn’t exactly do that great in theaters, but it is a fantastic story, with great characters and catchy music with a setting that would play extremely well for a boat ride thru the bayous of New Orleans, retelling the story and singing the songs. The story would be narrated by Ray the lightnin’ bug as you. I love this idea, and think it would be a classic, buuut… it’s still girly.

Build a replica of Carl Fredrickson’s house from Up on Main Street USA, where the cul-de-sac is, half way down on the right. The theming of his house, is very similar in style to Main Street USA. The facade would look exactly like the house in the movie, but once inside you get to experience flying around the world, with him and Russell and Dug. Of course, Beta and the other bad dogs from the movie, might also make an appearance. They could do this using similar technology as used in Soarin’. For the ride portion you would sit either on the ground floor in his living room, dining room or kitchen, or on the second floor in one of the bedrooms. As soon as the house “lifted off the ground”, the walls would disappear and the house would “fly” to different places as seen in the movie, with a few scary moments being chased by the bad dogs.  There is more than adequate space to build this too. Right behind Main Street in this area is nothing but a parking lot.

While those 2 might movies/stories and their characters might be good for an attraction (in my opinion), they’re probably nowhere on the list of possibilities.

I think Disney has done some of their best work when they created new attractions from scratch, or without a movie to stand on. Historically, there was Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and none of those had any kind of movie to build off. In recent times there’s been other great attractions built as well without a movie for its basis like Soarin, Expedition Everest, Test Track and Tower of Terror. So, perhaps there’s hope that we could see something new come out of Imagineering that will be an enduring classic like many others.

On that note, take a look at another fan site called the Imagineering Disney blog (not officially related to Disney) concept for a Swiss area and Matterhorn in the Magic Kingdom.

  1. GrumpyFan
    January 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    George, just my opinion, but it’s not unique either. Many others have said similar things across the web. But, hey, you know what they say about opinions…

    It’s true, Walt’s first movie was a “princess” movie, and there have been a few, most of which pretty successful. However, there have been many MANY more that were not so-called “princess-movies” where the main character wasn’t necessarily female. My point, however, was that nearly all of the attractions that were being pitched for the expansion of Fantasyland were centered around a female character, which can’t be argued. That’s not to say that their designs weren’t focused on both genders, but, you have to admit that when the main character of the attractions are female, it makes it hard to promote the idea that it’s not a girl-centric attraction.

    Back in Walt’s day, I think he understood how to take a girl/princess as the main character of a movie/attraction, and make it appeal to both genders, good example, look at Snow White. You have the princess, but you also have these silly dwarves as supporting characters.

    I’m not sure I have enough knowledge of what Walt wanted exactly, but he did seem to have a good mindset for balancing out his stories and parks in such a way that they appealed to everybody. Which, in essence goes back to what I was trying to say, in that the new area isn’t, in my opinion, balanced to appeal to both genders. Again, just my opinion, not sexist. Besides that, I don’t have a problem with princesses, I have two in my own house, and love them both.

    Oh, and one other thing. Now that they have come out with an official re-design of the new Fantasyland it would seem obvious to me that somebody at Disney agreed that maybe it was a bit too “girly”, but then that’s just my speculation. Who knows why they really changed it. Regardless, it now has a bit less “girly” attractions that will be in the new version. Of course, it’s still quite early in the design and build, things can and probably will change, so who knows what it will be in the end. But, I will say I like the new plans a lot better than before and I’m looking forward to it.

    Thanks for posting and come back again.

  2. January 28, 2011 at 1:34 am

    It really amazed me how you said the Fantasyland Expansion is too “girly”. Fantasyland is based off Walt Disney’s classic films, which were… Can’t get it? PRINCESS MOVIES. His first movie was Snow White for crying out loud. I suppose you think Snow White’s Scary Adventures is geared for boys because it focuses on the darker parts of Snow White? Snow White itself is a dark story. The ride is perfect. There are really no such things as boy stuff and girl stuff. The only people who say “this is what boys wanna do” and “this is what girls wanna do” is our crappy society. I’m mad they’re replacing Snow White’s Scary Adventures and building a roller coaster right across from it. Snow White isn’t “roller coaster material”. I’d appreciate if they kept Pixie Hollow, Cinderella, and Aurora.

    HOWEVER, I don’t appreciate how Disney markets the princesses as all sweet and everything. Snow White is a dark story. Beauty & the Beast is a story about a man who was damned and fell in love with a girl who he trapped in her castle. The actual stories don’t fit the way Disney markets them. I’d appreciate if they’d stop with the “Disney Princess” franchise and market them the way their original stories are (as in the Disney versions). I’d also appreciate it if you’d stop being so sexist. Walt didn’t want “girl and boy areas”. He wanted everyone to be in one place and have fun.

  1. December 31, 2010 at 2:30 am

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