As we pulled up to the reopened and newly themed Fantasyland stop on the Walt Disney World Railroad, my kids could hardly wait to jump out and race toward the new Storybook Circus section of the Magic Kingdom.
We slowed them for a few minutes to look around the station, Carolwood Park, whose name is a nod to Walt Disney's backyard railroad, Carolwood Pacific. The station's brick facade and muted colors certainly make it look appropriate for the era in which the Disney classic "Dumbo" was introduced in the 1940s. There are fun props, such as old-fashioned luggage and a railroad weather vane, tucked in corners and atop buildings. Be sure to look down, too, or you'll miss the imprints of peanut shells and animal feet in the walkways. There are even exposed brick paths that recall the days when trolleys were prevalent. (You can see lots of photos from of Carolwood Park and Storybook Circus on Deb's blog and Jack's blog.)
This section of Fantasyland features rides and attractions that largely appeal to younger kids. As such, it's likely that many parents will be making frequent trips to bathrooms with their offspring, and Disney has provided a welcome addition with the new, larger facilities that have been moved near the railroad station.
Another aspect that cried out for relocation was the designated smoking area adjacent to the old Fantasyland train station. It never made sense to me why officials would allow smokers to be so close to the youngest of children. Plus, passengers on the Walt Disney Railroad definitely could smell the fumes as they approached the station or were waiting for their trains to depart again. There are no indications yet whether this location will remain a smoking section once the construction is complete, but I'm hopeful that the lack of ashtrays and signage means a change is coming. And my 9-year-old son said as much, as well, when he explored that end of the station while awaiting the arrival of the next train. (Both ends of the station offer prime locations for up-close photos of the steam engines as they roll in.)
As we left Carolwood Park, we headed into Storybook Circus, which soft-opened last week. (A soft opening is the period before an official opening, when certain attractions are open to the public while they are being tested. Rides can be shut down at any point for adjustments.) We walked straight over to The Barnstormer, the same kiddie roller coaster from Mickey's Toontown Fair. The track and the cars haven't changed, except to be rethemed to align with the Storybook Circus idea. Instead of racing through a barn, riders will "crash" through an airport tower and a billboard on the short ride with The Great Goofini. My 7-year-old daughter, who hasn't met a roller coaster she didn't like, appreciated the changes.
The biggest change with The Barnstormer is that the queue has been moved to the opposite side of the coaster. Despite Disney's attempts to add shade with target-themed overhead coverings, it's still pretty hot waiting in the line -- and it's not even summer yet. Still, we all liked the new queue, which allows guests to watch the trains depart, and there are a lot of clever circus-themed elements to take in while you're waiting. Both kids laughed at the humorous themed art seen along the walkway, and my son really got a kick out of how one of Goofy's crashed rockets, with its saddle attached, still had a lit fuse on its back.
Guests will find designated stroller parking between The Barnstormer and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. This decent-size area will surely help keep the walkways open and the overflow to a minimum, which benefits everyone. As an added feature, my son found that this area gave him a prime viewing of the roller coaster, and he stayed here to watch it run while the rest of us explored nearby.
Dumbo The Flying Elephant has been uprooted from behind Cinderella Castle and reworked for Storybook Circus. The new version will eventually have two rides that turn in opposite directions, so the elephants meet in the middle. In addition, the circus tent behind the attraction will house an interactive queue to make the wait more entertaining. My son was disappointed this feature wasn't working when we attended, and he looks forward to exploring when it opens. Both additions are aimed at making the always-long wait for Dumbo more palatable.
Currently, the new Dumbo is the only half open while the older version is being refurbished. Purists will notice the muted colors of one of Disney's iconic attractions have been changed to vibrant, primary colors of a circus. In addition, Timothy Q. Mouse is missing from the top of the ride. Instead, guests will hear Dumbo's friend talk to them as they board the attraction. (Though my kids noticed this, it seemed as if my husband was the most bothered by not seeing Dumbo's little friend atop the attraction.)
The most beautiful aspect of the Dumbo redo that has been revealed so far is the addition of water and LED lights below the spinning elephants. At night, the lights change rapidly during each ride -- a show you can enjoy without waiting in line, thanks to the new layout that includes a planned viewing area. As a parent, I really love that this version of Dumbo makes taking photographs and waving to little ones who are looking for familiar faces so much easier. And having a water and light show is definitely entertaining.
Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak station is next to open in Storybook Circus, according to the current Magic Kingdom maps distributed in the park. For those who are a bit rusty on the story of Dumbo, Casey Jr. is the locomotive that brings the circus to town in the film. Walt Disney World promotional materials describe the area this way: "[It] will feature water squirting from playful monkeys, elephants, and camels as Casey lets off billows of nice, cool steam."
We're looking forward to seeing the replacement for Donald Duck's boat, and, of course, what's hidden in all the circus tents!
The previous post in this blog was Never a dull moment for kids at Disney's Port Orleans Resort.
The next post in this blog is Public can view Disney Fantasy from Jetty Park and join Sail-A-Bration .