What is being added to Fantasyland?
There are two new sections being added to Fantasyland. They are:
A "Storybook Circus" area that includes:
- An updated Dumbo ride (with two Dumbo spinners and an indoor circus-themed waiting area)
- A retheming of the "Barnstormer" kiddie coaster
- A kiddie water play area called the "Casey Jr. Splash and Soak Station"
- An area to meet Disney characters called "Pete's Silly Sideshow"
A new "Fantasyland Forest" area that will include:
- A "Little Mermaid" ride taking you "Under the Sea"
- An attraction called "Enchanted Tales with Belle" which is an opportunity to meet Belle from Beauty in the Beast and act in a little show with her
- A new restaurant called "Be Our Guest" (themed to Beauty and the Beast), and another quick-service restaurant called "Gaston's Tavern"
- A new coaster called the "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train."
When does the new Fantasyland open?
Disney has announced an opening date of December 6, 2012. However, much of the land is already open, and the rest of the attractions will be "soft opening" November 18. (A "soft opening" means that attractions may or may not be operating, as Disney tries to get the kinks out.) As of late September, most of the Storybook Circus area is already open (Dumbo, the Barnstormer, and the water play area). In addition, "Enchanted Tales with Belle" is conducting occasional tests with guest.
How will the new Fantasyland affect optimal touring?
This is a major expansion to the park, and needless to say, it will have major implications on not only the waits for these attractions, but for others as well. Much of what I'm writing is speculation at this point - it's important to note that for Optimal Magic customers, I closely monitor the effects of any new openings and adjust optimal plans as necessary. So when you are an Optimal Magic customer you can be assured to get the absolute best, most up-to-date plans necessary. Also, if you're an Optimal Magic customer, no need to read any of this - I'll do the planning for you!
However, I know lots people are wondering what I expect the effects of these attractions to be. So let's go through the attractions one-by-one.
Dumbo - In the past, I usually tried to steer people away from Dumbo. It was a slow-loading ride with long lines all day. Also, Disney has three other similar spinning rides, two of which have shorter lines. If you had to ride Dumbo, I would have you sprint there right as the park opens and get you on the first Dumbo ride of the day.
All this has changed with the new Fantasyland. Now there are two Dumbos. This doubling of capacity, plus a less-central location, has made Dumbo a shorter-line attraction. In addition, Fastpass has been added to the attraction, and the return times generally aren't far out, making it even easier to ride without a wait. So if you have to ride Dumbo, have at it! And no need to sprint over in the morning! It's a good evening attraction - it looks much prettier now, especially at night.
Barnstormer - This existed before the expansion, in the same location. I see no difference in line lengths occurring from the Fantasyland expansion. It looks like Fastpass will be added, however, which, if utilized properly, will enable you to ride it without a wait over a longer portion of the day.
Casey Jr. Splash and Soak Station - there will never be a wait.
Pete's Silly Sideshow - I'm generally not a fan of "wait in line to meet characters" when there are other no-wait options to meet them. But if you do, I don't anticipate waits any longer here than at the old character meet area that was in this location.
Under the Sea - This is the biggest new attraction opening this year. The good news is it is an omnimover-style attraction (think Haunted Mansion), which means a very high capacity, so it'll suck up crowds. The bad news is since it's the big new attraction, at first, the lines are going to be enormous. If you're visiting in the next several months, I would recommend making it one of your first stops (perhaps after picking up a Fastpass for another attraction). Eventually (in 6-12 months), the lines will subside and it will be easier to experience without a long wait.
Enchanted Tales with Belle - this is essentially a fancy meet 'n greet with Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The target audience is young kids, but I suspect the waits will still be relatively lengthy because the capacity of the attraction will not be huge.
"Be Our Guest" Restaurant - This will be a "quick service" restaurant at lunch (but higher quality than typical burgers and fries). At night it will transform to a very nice French restaurant (and include beer and wine - the only place to get alcohol in the Magic Kingdom!). I expect lunch lines to be large for a while because it is new and in busy Fantasyland. Reservations for dinner are already extremely challenging. If you want to eat dinner there, be sure to make your reservation there as early as possible (180 days in advance)
Gaston's Tavern - I expect this to be a busy quick-service restaurant for a while, but likely the crowds will subside somewhat after it has been open some time.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - This isn't opening until 2014, so let's not worry about it yet!
What about the rest of the park? Will crowds be larger?
If you follow Disney news, you know that out in California, Disney's California Adventure Park opened a huge expansion this year (primarily a new Cars Land), and crowds have been enormous - far larger than ever before. Will similar crowds occur at Disney World with the new expansion?
It's important to remember that Disney World gets very different crowds from Disneyland. Disneyland gets mostly local visitors from Southern California, who can easily say "let's go to Disneyland tomorrow." Disney World gets visitors from around the world. Because of that, changes in crowd flow should be different.
Nobody knows for sure, but my educated guess is that very short-term (the first month or two when the expansion is open, probably through the 2012 winter holidays), there will be an uptick in crowds from local Orlando-area guests and die-hard Disney fans who want to see the new stuff first. After this uptick, I anticipate a small increase in overall crowds at the Magic Kingdom (as people may want to spend more time there with the additional attractions, and some people may plan an additional trip to Disney World), but it should be offset by the additional capacity of the new areas.
As for overall Magic Kingdom crowds, after the initial two-month surge of locals, I don't anticipate major changes in waits for other attractions. But I do expect that some attractions in Fantasyland that typically have long lines may have shorter waits early in the day (such as Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh), as people with young kids flock to the new attractions. But this will likely be offset by even longer waits later in the day as the people who finish the new attractions revisit old favorites.
What does this mean for Optimal Magic customers?
If you are an Optimal Magic customer, never fear - you will be the best-prepared people for the new changes! I am constantly gathering more data and information. As soon as new attractions open, I learn about how they are affecting crowd flow. So I will update your plans based on this new information as it becomes available. Because things will be changing so quickly, if you are heading to Disney World in the first few weeks the new Fantasyland expansion is opening, I will update your plans (if necessary), even if they've already been completed, at no charge. I want to make sure my customers have the absolute best, most accurate information, so they can avoid the lines, even when the new Fantasyland opens!
What if you're heading to the Magic Kingdom on opening day of New Fantasyland? Actually, if you were an Optimal Magic customer, you aren't doing that. I never send my customers where everyone is going. It just means long lines and less optimal touring.
Thanks, and I hope you're looking forward to the new Fantasyland as much as I am! I'll be there soon after it opens, and will be sure to report back!