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December 7, 2012

New Fantasyland Grand Opening

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I haven't been to "the World" since early October, so I've missed all the little sneak previews Disney's been holding to tease us all with tastes of the new attractions and other features of the expansion to the theme park's beloved Fantasyland. It was so difficult to read everything about the new Enchanted Tales with Belle, the Beast's Castle and the Be Our Guest Restaurant, as well as the new Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, knowing it would be months until I finally had the chance to experience them all for myself.

Finally, as of today, I can tell you both that the New Fantasyland is open and, even better, I am even happier to report that I've seen it and LOVE it!

The opening festivities actually started Wednesday night with a press event that allowed members of the media and their guests to explore the area on their own. But the formal ribbon-cutting and "Grand Opening Celebration" occurred today, December 6, with the expected Disney fanfare.

First thing this morning, members of the media attended a small ribbon-cutting ceremony in Belle's Village, with chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs and two special guests -- actress Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Snow White on the popular ABC-TV show "Once Upon a Time," and singer (and former American Idol winner) Jordin Sparks. The festivities were overseen by Mickey Mouse, donned in appropriately regal Fantasyland-themed attire.

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With a burst of dove-shaped confetti, the ribbon leading to the new section of Fantasyland was cut and the attention turned to the Castle Forecourt Stage.

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The more elaborate and more public grand opening celebration on the Castle Forecourt Stage, featured Jordin Sparks singing a Disney tunes medley and performing with a new Magic Kingdom act, the Giggle Gang -- circus clowns!

After this performance, Staggs took the stage once more for the dedication of the New Fantasyland.

"Walt Disney once promised that Disneyland, and by extension all of our parks, would never be complete as long as there is imagination left in the world," Staggs said. "New Fantasyland is a spectacular addition to the Magic Kingdom that delivers on Walt's promise. We're thrilled to take guests beyond the walls of Cinderella Castle to discover new worlds featuring iconic Disney characters and stories in ways that are more imaginative, more interactive and more immersive than ever before."

Following the ceremony, the media had the opportunity to attend a short panel discussion on "The Story Behind New Fantasyland," held in the Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland. Panel members included Imagineer Chris Beatty, who has overseen the development of the New Fantasyland project; Maribeth Bisienere (vice president of Food and Beverage and Merchandise Operations Integration for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts); and Phil Holmes, vice president of the Magic Kingdom.

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The discussion centered on the challenges the team faced in bringing the New Fantasyland to fruition, including the controversial decision to serve alcoholic beverages at the new Be Our Guest restaurant in the Beast's Castle. Below, Beatty talks about the inspiration behind the New Fantasyland project.

And with that, the New Fantasyland is finally open! I'll be sharing more photos and my thoughts about the new features of this brand new section of the park in this week's AllEars newsletter. Until then...

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the New Fantasyland Press Event.

Disney Shares What's Happening "Around Our World" at Press Event

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The final day of the New Fantasyland press event began over at Downtown Disney's AMC 24 Theatre with Disney's presentation to update everyone on what's happening "Around Our World."

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Before the show there was much speculation as to whether any significant revelations would be made -- many were thinking (wishfully) that speaker Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, would announce that a version of California Adventure's Carsland would be coming to Walt Disney World.

Let me tell you right off, the answer to that is...no. At least, there was no announcement to that effect. Instead the biggest news we heard, at least in my opinion, is that the previously announced Avatar Land, a new area in Animal Kingdom to be themed after the successful James Cameron film and its upcoming sequels, is definitely proceeding. (Rumors have circulated that perhaps the project was dead, since there hasn't been much news about it since it was originally announced.) According to the Vaughn, development of the new fantastical land is "still on track" and something that they're "very excited" about.

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Aside from that tidbit, the rest of the presentation served as a recap of what's been happening at Disney Parks and around the Disney universe most recently.

Meg Crofton, President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France (to give her full title), introduced the program by sharing a few bits of trivia about the New Fantasyland and Test Track attractions, now that they're officially open to the public.

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She revealed, for example, that there is a Hidden Mickey in the new Little Mermaid attraction that will only be visible once a year, on November 18 -- Mickey Mouse's birthday. She also pointed out this subtle tribute to the original Epcot attraction World of Motion -- it's the logo for the old ride, which originally occupied Test Track's site.

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In addition to his confirmation of the Avatar project, Vaughn also spoke at length about other recent developments around the Disney Parks.

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Vaughn of course highlighted the New Fantasyland and its many features, calling the Audio Animatronic Lumiere, found in the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience, the most advanced that Disney has at the moment. He also talked about the non-queue queue at the revamped Dumbo attraction, hinting that the "queue lounge" is something we might be seeing more of. Vaughn also talked briefly about the Princess Fairy Tale Hall, which will open in New Fantasyland next year, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, not due to be finished until 2014. Vaughn said the train's thrill level will rank somewhere just below Big Thunder Mountain Railroad's, and added that the representations of the dwarfs themselves in the attraction will be "unique."

Vaughn also took the opportunity to announce the addition of a new gallery in Epcot, to be housed in the American Adventure. The Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Collection will be made up of 40 pieces of art, artifacts, books and documents from the Kinseys' personal collection of African-American art and history. The gallery will hold previews during African-American heritage month in February 2013, an will officially open in March.

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After recapping the new attractions at Disneyland Resort -- primarily Cars Land and the new Buena Vista Street -- Vaughn turned the program over to Karl Holz, President, New Vacation Operations and Disney Cruise Line.

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Holz also gave an overview of the latest news relating to his areas of responsibility, the Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney. Future itineraries for both have already been announced -- the one item that was news to me was Holz's mention of a special princess event to be held in the Doges Palace in Venice, as part of the DCL's sailing in the Mediterranean next year.

Crofton concluded the presentation by giving a fuller explanation of Limited Time Magic, a program announced several weeks ago.

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The idea behind Limited Time Magic is to "give guests an extra dash of pixie dust" by providing themed weekly surprises that will create special memories. Crofton offered as examples of upcoming Limited Time Magic themes a week dedicated to pirates and a "love" week around Valentine's Day.

The presentation ended with the audience receiving its very own Limited Time Magic treat -- a selection from the "original boy band," the barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans. The foursome departed from their usual standards and delighted us with a medley of hits from recent REAL boy bands like Backstreet Boys, N Sync, and One Direction. If all Limited Time Magic offerings are as whimsical as this was, I'm excited for the program to start.

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DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the New Fantasyland Press Event.

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About December 2012

This page contains all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in December 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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