Theme Park Ranger
8:58 AM EST, December 13, 2012
Last weekend I woke up facedown in a pool of pixie dust.
Disney World's grand opening of New Fantasyland came with three days of facts, figures and flirtations about the future. It was informative and exhausting.
But where else can quotes like these simply blend in? "The Dwarfs are going to be amazing" and "I think it's our most beautiful Dumbo in the world." Ah, life in Orlando.
Here are tidbits worth sharing.
•Those whispers of an "Avatar" land not happening here after all should die down. Disney remains "very early" in the creative process, says Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. But "the fit at Animal Kingdom couldn't be better," he says. The theme will center on living in harmony with nature and will include Pandora and other worlds that director James Cameron is working on for future films, Vaughn says.
•Midway through my first trip on the revamped Test Track at Epcot, I said, "Where am I?" Its look is so different than before, in a great way. Imagineer Melissa Jeselnick calls it a "glowy, digital world … or what it might look like if you stuck your head inside a computer."
There's a suspicious new-car smell to the pre-show area, although Imagineers deny piping that in. Remember, this is a company that sells auto fresheners that smell like turkey legs.
•One Fantasyland party was crashed by a flying dragon. It soared above Beast's Castle and cause a stir. Will it be seen again?
"All I'll say is Imagineers are always trying new things and new technologies to bring stories to life. And the dragon was just sort of a little sneak peek into some of our technology and new things we're trying," says Chris Beatty, creative director for the Fantasyland expansion. And faster than I could say "Avataaaaaa," he was whisked away.
•Now that beer and wine are sold at Magic Kingdom in a limited way, and Main Street hasn't cracked open and swallowed up the imbibers, I have friends who insist that we're on the edge of buying drinks elsewhere in the park. Will we one day knock one back at, oh, Casey's Corner?
"No," says Maribeth Bisienere, vice president of food and beverage for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We've talked about this for years. We would never just put this in Magic Kingdom. It never really made sense to do it until we had a restaurant that was thematically asking for it."
•Remember the rumor that boy band One Direction was going to perform at the grand reopening of Test Track? Nope, it was OneRepublic, whose "The Good Life" song is featured in Disney ads. So close, rumormongers, so close.
•Who's missing from Fantasyland? How about Disney fairies? That could change, eventually. "It is very high on the list," say Phil Holmes, vice president for Magic Kingdom. "We're working on ideas," Beatty says.
•Disney's Limited Time Magic promotion will begin Jan. 1 and feature 52 weeks of special programming, such as Pirates Week and a Villains Dance Party on Friday the 13th. They won't be announced too far in advance, but we'll be able to stay current via postings on the official Disney Parks Blog and on DisneyParks.com, says Scott Cassidy, senior vice president for Disney Parks and Resorts.
After seeing a rare appearance by the Dumbo walkaround character on grand-opening day, I'm wondering more about the Limited Time Magic offering little-seen favorites.
"What we plan to do is take a list of 20 or so those characters that you typically don't see — maybe it's Flynn, maybe it's Clarabelle, maybe it's Dumbo — and let guests vote. … I think we might even do that more than once because we've got a whole host of characters who live just beyond the wall and they don't get as much air time."
•Finally, what's in a name? Initially, I thought Disney was using the name "New" (with a capital N) Fantasyland to describe the new section. But now it's apparent that moniker includes the entire land, including the well-established attractions. Granted, the use of something like "old Fantasyland" or "Lower Fantasyland" is a little negative. But how long can they call it "New" without it being old news?
That hasn't been discussed, Beatty says.
"Maybe one day we'll decide to change that, but for now, we're happy."
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