In the months leading up to the grand opening of The
Wizarding World of Harry Potter, whenever I spoke with Disney insiders about
what the Company was going to do in response to this highly-anticipated Islands
of Adventure addition, Mickey's mantra was pretty much the same: Just wait 'til
you see Fantasyland Forest.
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But now that The Wizarding World has been open for a month
and has proven to be this enormous success, the message coming from the Mouse
House has changed. Now it's DCA's Cars Land - rather than this $300 million
expansion of WDW's Magic Kingdom - that's being hyped as Disney's Potter
Mind you, this isn't just because Cars Land will be opening
before Fantasyland Forest (DCA's brand-new "land" is expected to open to the
public sometime in late Spring of 2012, whereas Phase II of Fantasyland Forest
isn't supposed to be completed 'til 2013). But - rather - because this addition
to WDW's Magic Kingdom has reportedly hit a few snags.
Like what? Well, for starters, there's Disney's board of
directors. Who aren't exactly the biggest fans of the Fantasyland Forest
project. And why not? Because Jay Rasulo (who was then head of Disney Parks
& Resorts but is now the Company's Chief Financial Officer) announced this
ambitious WDW expansion last September at the D23 EXPO before the board had
actually okayed this expansion project. Which is why they've been somewhat slow
when it comes to okaying all of the cash necessary for construction.
Thomas Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and ResortsCopyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Which suits Tom Staggs (who used to be Disney's CFO but is
now head of Disney Parks & Resorts) just fine. Given that Staggs reportedly
isn't all that enthusiastic about the version of Fantasyland Forest that Rasulo
signed off on. Which is why Tom would supposedly like to step away from the
previously announced expansion plan
(which relies far too heavily on the Disney Princess franchise for his taste)
and then go with an assortment of new rides & attractions for the Magic
Kingdom that would have far broader appeal. That could be all things to all
people, rather than betting the farm on a single franchise.
You see, what Staggs knows that - in the wake of "The
Princess and the Frog" 's under-performance at the box office late last year -
The Walt Disney Company took a long hard look at its Disney Princess franchise.
Which has been experiencing some allegiance erosion lately (This is one of the main
reasons that "Rapunzel" was retitled "Tangled." So that this Nathan Greno &
Bryon Howard film could then distance itself [a bit, anyway] from this
So as of right now, though site prep is well underway behind
all of those construction walls that you'll find towards the back of the
Kingdom ... The only previously-announced Fantasyland Forest expansion
that's absolutely positively going forward at this point is "The Little
Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure." Garner Holt has already completed
construction of many of the undersea creatures that will be featured in
dark ride. And meanwhile - towards the very back of the Fantasyland
construction site - Disney is installing pieces of timber to help brace
the two walls of the old "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" show building
remain standing. So that these walls can eventually be incorporated into
Little Mermaid" 's show building.
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"And why would Disney want to do something like that?," you
ask. Well, this actually has to do with the permits that the Mouse's construction
team has to pull for the Fantasyland Forest project. You see, if there's at
least one wall left standing from the previous structure that you can then
incorporate into your new construction project ... Well, that means that you can
call this project a renovation. Which involves a far-less costly permit than a full-blown,
brand-new construction project does.
Anyway ... Getting back to Fantasyland Forest now ... Given that
the Company's Disney Princess franchise suddenly appears to need some shoring
up (Which is why there are reportedly plans in the works for Disney Jr. to begin
airing a Disney Princess TV series sometime after this cable channel transitions
over from being SoapNet in 2012), it just makes sense to slow down things a bit.
Get a better grasp on what Magic Kingdom Guest want to see / what consumers would
really respond to.
This is actually why the plans for the Pixie Hollow portion
of Fantasyland Forest were pulled back for retooling earlier this year. You
see, the Company's currently doing a bit of course correction on its Disney
Fairies franchise. Doing everything it can to make sure that this brand-new
brand is properly positioned for future growth.
"And what's wrong with the Disney Fairies franchise?," you
ask. To be honest, over the past year, the Company has realized that they're
been placing far too much emphasis on Tinker Bell and not enough on all the
other characters that populate Pixie Hollow. Which is why they've actually
swapped the release dates of the 2011 & 2012 Disney Fairies movies. So that
what was originally supposed to have been the home premiere for 2012 (i.e.
"Tinker Bell and the Race through the Seasons") will now be released in the
Fall of 2011.
"And why is Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment doing
that?," you query. Well, "Race through the Seasons" features a storyline which
has Tinker Bell coaching other fairies. So that they'll then be able to take
part in this Never Land sports competition. And it's hoped that this particular home
premiere can then be used to introduce some new Disney Fairies characters that
consumers will be quicker to take to their hearts than they did Vidia,
Silvermist, Rosetta, Fawn and Iridessa.
Anywho ... That's why Pixie Hollow has been pushed back to
Phase II of the Fantasyland Forest expansion project. So that The Walt Disney
Company will then have time to tinker with its Disney Fairies franchise and
hopefully then be able to expand the appeal of this brand beyond a single
character (i.e. Tinker Bell).
But as for the rest of the Fantasyland Forest project ... With
the exception of "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure" and the "Be
Our Guest" restaurant (which Magic Kingdom officials are hoping will take some
of the heat off of Cinderella's Royal Table. So that returning WDW visitors who are looking for a memorable
dining experience will opt to eat at this 552-seat venue rather than angling
for yet another reservation at that 130-seat restaurant high up in Cinderella
Castle), everything else is kind of in flux right now. As the Imagineers try
& address some of Tom Staggs' concerns about this expansion project.
Speaking of which ... Can it really be a co-incidence that -
just as Staggs is supposedly telling WDI to take an "All Things to All People"
approach when it comes to adding new rides, shows and attractions to the Magic
Kingdom that rumors began circulating about something of size being added to
Frontierland? Could it be that the Imagineers are trying to bring some sort of balance
to this theme park? Adding a boy-centric attraction to the Kingdom to
counteract all of that girl-friendly stuff that's supposed to be built as part
of Fantasyland Forest?
Know this, though: The one aspect of The Wizarding World of
Harry Potter that Disney truly envies / would love to be able to emulate is the
robust retail sales that this Islands of Adventure addition has been
experiencing. Guests standing in line for an hour to gain entrance to a gift
shop is every theme park operator's dream. The only problem is - since the
Disney Princess franchise seems to have (at least temporarily) peaked - it's
unlikely that carts & shops selling crown & gowns is likely to get the
same sort of rabid response that that Harry Potter fans have shown when it
comes to the merch that's on sale at Zonko's and Dervish & Bange's.
Copyright 2010 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved
So if you had the opportunity to help the Imagineers retool
their original plans for the Fantasyland Forest, what would you do? Especially
taking into consideration that - given the enormous amount of money that the
Company is looking to spend on this Magic Kingdom addition - that Disney would
like to get a Potter-sized return on its investment.
Disney should re-visit the Gargoyles franchise which they already own and make it more universal in appeal. My oldest boys now 23 and 18 loved that show. It had good vs evil, wizards and mythology. This can go head to head with Potter. Disney has more unexplored opportunities like the Incredibles. KIds are getting tired of the Pirate thing.
While Fantasyland is geared toward themes of, well, fantasy, I still beleive that there is room for more than just princesses. As for that big E-ticket ride they need, I think it's about time they did "Villian Mountain"; an attraction themed around the villians. It could be a water coaster, much like Journey to Atlantis in Seaworld.
This is one of those projects that once announced everyone was like "Wow this looks great!" but as time went on I think everyone (including disney) realized that while this looks great--this entire expansion is really only adding 1 attraction--the Little Mermaid Ride, sure there is this the interactive meet and greet with all the princesses but like everyone is saying--that is a small segment of their audience. I agree with other posters that the idea of Fantasy Land Forest is still a great idea but why not add another major attraction for everyone—like an interactive Villains ride that uses some of the technology from Spiderman—Fantastic the Ride or something like that. I think with both Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain (2 of the busiest rides in the park) Frontier Land is fine—I’ve thought for a while that new thrill ride/flume ride based on the newer POC movies would be awesome –imagine coming face to face with a Kranken AA. However—the Magic Kingdom remains the busiest park in all of WDW and in entire world. If Disney wants to spend money they should really continue to add more rides to AK. On our first a visit to WDW just a few months ago, my family all thought it was the weakest of the all the parks at WDW—it could really use 2 or 3 additions—What about a indoor dark ride centered around the Jungle Book or a family coaster/thrill ride based on Tarzan…they could even bring in some of Paradise Falls from UP . However if they really want to make money and capitalize on huge product line then Cars is the way to go---Cars land should be a no-brainer for HWS—especially with the Cars 2 coming out, the Cars franchise will not be losing any steam any time soon, and with the release of Monsters Inc. 2 the long awaited Monsters coaster should be a no brainer too.
I like this kind of articles because they are open to a lot of feed back and great brainstorming. When I saw the Fantasy Forest idea before I knew what it was going to be in it, I liked it. I love the Beauty and the Beast area with the Be our Guest Restaurant. It 's about time they create something around the most well created story they own. I think the forest will look beautiful and it will feel great to be in it, but it's just a bunch of character greeting areas with photo opportunities in them. I see myself going once and never return again. They need something that has multiple visiting capability. It sounds pretty, but a waste of money and space. i don't want to hear Belle tell a story or Cinderella for that matter. I would avoid Aurora's birthday planning like the plague. The woods is a common are in every fairy tale. Every character goes to the woods in any moment during the story telling. They should use this to create a story line behind this are. Someone before me came out with the great idea of creating a shadow dark wood section where villain theme attractions can be added. An "E" ticket ride besides Little Mermaid that explore all all Disney's fairy tails could be nice. One that goes from romantic moments to dragon fighting ones. Disney has done this as animation movie montages before ( like the movie they used to have in the MGM Studios Animation Studio Tour ), but this time as a black light ride/ roller coaster at times complete immersion ride. They just have to think outside the box. The suits just have to let the creative team at Disney do what they do best. They have the talent and the imagination. They just need to give them the green light to allow them to dream big instead of cutting corners like they did in DCA.
Disney totally dismissed the impact of an HP E ticket. land. It is not a ride. . I am a fifty-year old, and for the first time at a theme park, I felt I was taken out of a park and placed inside a movie.On the second time I rode single and truly felt I was flying. I bought a lot a candies, tees and goofy gifts for those I work at home for with at HP. i even stayed on property while I had a condo at Coco Beach.
MK remember, Little Princes are getting younger each year, so are little boys, for that matter. The lines for Twightlight should have been a hint. You can keep the diminishing "Little" market and the nostalgia rides for baby boomer's kids or grandkids. Give folks a new unique experince not a repeat of the past. BTW Villians should have been green lighted a long time ago.
They need to bring 'Crush's Coaster' over and add it to the expansion. That ride is amazing.
Why doesn't Disney do a survey of what people want. They could ask for ideas/comments for a period of time, boil these down to a hand full of choices and let us vote on our favorites. Maybe make a contest out of it. If they advertized it properly I am sure they would get a huge response.
We will see where WWoHP is in 5 years. After the movies are all out, I think there will not be hour lines to get into the gift shops. Heck, the area is new and it is a hot IP so Universal was bound to have some success. There will not be an hour line to get into the gift shops in a few months, give it time the magic will wear off over at Hogwarts.
Plus as a "Larger man" I am afraid of spending money to go to Universal
Disney needs to build attractions and shops that no one has ever seen before. Innovative, mind blowing state-of-the-art attractions that blow away the public. Disney simply needs to be the innovator, the leaders, not followers. It doesn't matter if it is for boys or girls, old or young.
Mike Amundsen, You came out with a good idea, but Disney policy is to NEVER accept ideas from anybody to avoid legal problems. Even if you work for the company, you are not allow to give ideas freely. Idea days are given once in a while with numerous legal documents to sign before presenting any ideas. That doesn't remove the possibility that they can read post like this one and know what the public wants.
I wholeheartedly agree with both the Phineas and Ferb suggestions and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse suggestions. I am actually very sad that Toon Town is going away since it is the only real area of the park (other than merchandise) that focuses on the Mouse and friends. Given that "it was all started by a mouse" I have always found the that the lack of Mickey in he park disappointing. Toon town was not what it needed to be, however Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as a franchise is very popular and backed up by the cartoon, plus it is friendly to both boys and girls.
I think they should add the Matterhorn!
I agree with those saying that 3 new big attractions would be better than the Pixy Hallow idea - convert part of it to a Neverland with a Pixy Hallow in it. Too much of this expanision is aimed at little girls - not the whole family. In addition, I think Disney may eventually have problems hiring enough females to play the roles of the princesses in all the elaborate Meet and Greets - as these are all face characters. What may seem cost effective now, will become a headache later.
Keep the Mermaid and B & B Restaurant - add the B & B attraction planned for Disneyland Paris and then add my idea "Aladin's Adventure: Escape from the Cave of Wonders" in Adventureland. It is an area of the park in Florida that has not seen a major expansion or addition in a long time.
An magic carpet ride/coaster from Aladdin has been in the back for a long tim! Escaping the Cave of wonders and or A whole new world type coaster would be awesome!
I Hope we don't lose the detail of Fantasy Forest for more attractions. The beauty of Potterland is that there is so much detail in the environment. Only one attraction is new. Keep the plans as is, but add a villain-themed e-ticket on the back side (preferably Maleficant) to broaden the appeal a bit.
Easy advice for Tom Staggs etal: replace the current lame Pooh ride with the one like they have in Tokyo. It's a timeless classic dark ride for the whole family, whether they particularly like Pooh or not.