Disney World Immersive Expansion Opens This Week

Disney WorldFlorida’s Walt Disney World is about to open a new, re-imagined Fantasyland. The iconic park had been in operation for years to the thrill of vacationers of all ages and needed a facelift. More than a fresh coat of paint and upgraded technology, Disney is adding a popular immersive element to the experience.

“The Magic Kingdom is the iconic place at Walt Disney World and Fantasyland is the favorite land,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in the U.S. and France in a Fox News report. “It’s the heart of the Magic Kingdom and we’re absolutely doubling the size of it, so I think that’s major in our guests’ minds.”


New Fantasyland has had some attractions up and running for weeks during a soft opening where cast members test their operation. Along the way, those experiencing new features and attractions have been engaged and drawn into each correlating story, every step of the way.

Enchanted Tales With Belle
A new attraction, Enchanted Tales with Belle, is an interactive experience (as opposed to a “ride”) that begins with an enchanted mirror transporting guests from Belle’s house to Beast’s library where Belle and Lumière invite guests to become part of a lively retelling of the “tale as old as time.”

Unique here is that groups are small and many are invited to participate in the experience that brings guests up close and personal with live action characters from “Beauty and the Beast.” This is not a passive, sit-around-and-watch attraction.Disney WorldUnder the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid
Also new is the musical attraction Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid where guests enter Prince Eric’s castle, board a giant clamshell and enjoy high-energy songs and effects that take them inside scenes from the animated Disney film “The Little Mermaid.”

Similar to Haunted Mansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ride transports guests on clamshell-style vehicles using the Omnimover ride system introduced by Disney Imagineers in the 1960s. The ride takes guests through a series of scenes, first taking them to the bottom of the ocean, bringing us up to speed on Ariel’s journey from her father’s undersea kingdom then on to meeting Prince Eric.

Disney WorldBe Our Guest Restaurant
Cinderella’s Castle has some competition now with the opening of Beast’s Castle. In the middle of Beast’s Castle are three dining rooms that make up the new Be Our Guest Restaurant.

A West Wing features an enchanted rose, the Rose Gallery has twirling, larger-than-life figures of Belle and Beast and the Ballroom features an elegant domed ceiling, twinkling chandeliers and views of softly falling snow.

Inspired by Disney’s animated feature “Dumbo,” the Storybook Circus park within a park features a country fair feel with colorful big-top tents and attractions.

The Barnstormer takes the Great Goofini on a stunt plane ride high above Storybook Circus. As the story goes, Goofy has goofed his way into the role of a circus stunt pilot, The Great Goofini. In the tradition of classic air shows, The Great Goofini takes you away on a spiraling stunt plane adventure. Your twisting, turning, daredevil, roller coaster “flight” takes you high above the grounds of Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland.

A new Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride is twice the size of the old one and features a circus-themed play area offering recreation and relaxation for guests as they wait for their turn – with two rotating squadrons of airborne pachyderms! Inspired by the title character from the 1941 Disney animated motion picture, this popular attraction lets you fly with Dumbo.

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station is a circus-themed water play area where guests can enjoy cooling refreshment and squirt each other. Interactive water features include Casey Jr., who lets off billows of cooling “steam” along with monkeys, elephants and camels that spray water.

disney worldPete’s Silly Sideshow is the place for guests to meet Disney circus stars who are excited to show off their special talents. Located inside one of the big-top tents, guests can meet Minnie Magnifique (Minnie Mouse as a circus performer), Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck as a fortuneteller), The Great Goofini (Goofy as a daredevil stunt pilot) and The Astounding Donaldo (Donald Duck as a snake charmer).

Opening this week, that’s not the end of Fantasyland expansion. Doubling the size of the park, two other major attractions are underway, due to open in 2013 and 2014.

In the center of Fantasyland, Princess Fairytale Hall, opening in 2013, will feature walls of stone and stained glass windows opening into a large gallery where portraits of the Disney princesses cover the walls. Guests will move to elegantly finished rooms, meeting Disney princesses Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana and Rapunzel.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, opening in 2014, will take guests on a musical coaster ride into a mine via a first-of-its-kind ride system with a train of vehicles that swing back and forth, based on the classic Disney film and animated figures of “Snow White and the Dwarfs.”

See more in this preview video:




[Photo Credit- Disney Parks and Resorts]


Troubled baby gorilla at Disney World being treated like a kid

Visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park often spot a tiny baby gorilla along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. What most of them don’t know is that she’s much tinier than she should be. Lilly was born last year at Walt Disney World, one of only 10 to 15 gorilla births each year in the United States. And she’s not growing and developing the way she should.

Lilly depends on her mother for many things that a gorilla of her age should be doing independently, and her left side seems to be weaker than her right.

Disney World scrambled for months to solve the mystery of what is wrong with Lilly, according to the Orlando Sentinel. She’s even been seen by doctors who specialize in treating human kids, and gone to a local hospital for an MRI. But, while they have ruled out many serious things that could have been ailing the baby gorilla, her caretakers haven’t found the problem.

So Disney has innovated and switched the focus from diagnosing Lilly to treating her. An occupational therapist who usually works with autistic kids comes to treat the baby gorilla once a week, and she gets therapy sessions twice daily from her trainers.

Everyone involved with Lilly attests that she’s making progress. She remains along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where you can probably see her on your next visit to Orlando. Here’s video from the Orlando Sentinel of Lilly and the progress she’s making:

New Pixar Pals parade disappoints many Disney World fans

Walt Disney World debuted a new parade – Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! – at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday. The new parade features characters from Pixar films Up! and Ratatouille that have never appeared in a Disney parade before.

New stuff at Disney is frequently met with breathless wonder by the many fans of all things Disney out there. But when it comes to this parade, reaction from Disney World fans, including many locals who turned out to see the parade’s debut, has not been good.

In the comments sections of blogs and YouTube videos about the Pixar Pals parade, Disney fans are describing the parade as “low budget,” “horrible” and “disappointing.”

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! replaces the Block Party Bash, a street party-parade hybrid that moved through the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stopped at certain points to bring the audience out to dance with characters from popular movies including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life.

The main beefs with the parade seem to fall into two categories: First, that the parade is not different enough from its predecessor Block Party Bash, and second, that the parade is too short.As for the charge that the Pixar Pals parade is too similar to Block Party Bash, well, it is pretty similar. Many of the floats are the same; the rest are simply repainted. Cast members’ costumes and props are also unchanged.

“All of the floats are recycled from Block Party Bash, merely repainted and slightly re-themed and the music isn’t original. Overall, it comes as a disappointment to many who had high hopes for the new production,” writes a blogger at easyWDW.com.

And is the parade, which has a soundtrack made up largely of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” too short? At less than 8 minutes in length, it is shorter than other Disney Parks parades, which typically clock in closer to the 15-minute mark.

Shelley Caran of OnTheGoinMCO.com describes Pixar Pals as a “lack luster eight minute blink and you missed it.”

About the only positive reaction we could find in the blogosphere comes from Ricky Brigante of Inside the Magic.net, who was a vocal opponent of the way the Block Party Bash stopped in the theme park’s walkways each day: “At least it doesn’t hog the streets for extended periods of time like Block Party Bash once did.”

So, while kids may enjoy catching a glimpse of their favorite movie characters, the overall consensus from the grown-ups seems to be that Disney’s previous afternoon “parade,” Block Party Bash, was superior.

StudiosCentral.com, a blog devoted to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park where the new parade debuted, writes: “The previous two daytime parades at the Studios, Block Party Bash and Stars & Motor Cars Parade, were far superior displays and much more of an engaging experience. … For those that have enjoyed quality Disney World parades over the years, you may find yourself disappointed and underwhelmed.”

Now that you’ve seen the video, what do you think?

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Why you shouldn’t worry about Donald Duck groping you at Disney World

Donald Duck groping caseThe case against Donald Duck is moving forward. A federal judge has ruled that a Pennsylvania woman’s lawsuit against Walt Disney World can proceed.

April Magolon says that an actor costumed as Donald Duck at Epcot touched her breast and then joked about it in May 2008.

The Donald Duck groping case ruling allows Magolon’s civil lawsuit to proceed in Pennsylvania. Disney had wanted it moved to Orlando, where the alleged incident actually happened.

Magolon isn’t the first to claim that a costumed character at a Disney theme park intentionally groped her, and she won’t be the last.

But this kind of intentional incident is highly unlikely because of the costumes these actors are wearing that restrict their movement and their vision. As John Frost of The Disney Blog puts it:

Many guests get incensed when they wrongly interpret the costumed workers clumsy movements as groping, but it’s just not practical for a person to intentionally grope, let along joke about the action afterwords, inside one of those costumes.

Now because of the characters’ “clumsy movements,” an unintentional touch could happen. There are plenty of awkward Disney character photos to prove that. But an intentional grope? There’s no reason to worry that it might happen to you.

Also? The person in that Donald Duck suit is almost always a woman. Sorry if that bursts your bubble, but have you seen how short Donald is? The same goes for Mickey Mouse and many other “male” Disney characters.

[Image credit: Flickr user gwaar]

Disney World says goodbye to Block Party Bash

Disney Block Party Bash

New Year’s Day is a day of beginnings, but it marked the end for a Disney World parade. The Block Party Bash ended its run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on January 1.

The Block Party Bash was a rolling parade that stopped for a “street party” a couple of times along the parade route. It featured characters from DisneyPixar movies including Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.

The Green Army Men from Toy Story served as hosts and narrators of the dance party, inviting park guests out into the streets to dance to “Celebration” and “Shout” along with the characters and Disney dancers clad in technicolor outfits.

Disney announced last fall that the Block Party Bash would be closing in January. It is being replaced by a new parade, the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun!

The new parade debuts Jan. 16. It will include four DisneyPixar characters not currently seen at Disney Parks parades: Remy and Emile from Ratatouille and Carl and Russell from Up.

It is believed that the new parade will use the music from the Pixar Play Parade, which will be put on hiatus for most of 2011 at Disney’s California Adventure.

There will be no afternoon parades scheduled at Disney’s Hollywood Studios between Jan. 2 and Jan. 15.

[Image credit: Flickr user HarshLight]