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Gandalf Gets Beastly? Hobbits Take Over a Kingdom? DAK is getting interesting.

Gandalf Gets Beastly? Hobbits Take Over a Kingdom? DAK is getting interesting.

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Hello all you Disney Geeks out there. Have I got a scoop for you! It turns out that in a last ditch effort to save face with all the Disney fans out there, Michael Eisner has acquired the rights for one of our most popular and beloved fantasy franchises, you guessed it, NOT "Harry Potter," NOT "Krull," but "The Lord of the Rings"! "The Hobbit" to be exact. What does this mean for us? Well, we might just see Middle Earth brought to life in a way we never thought possible. Allow me to explain.

Remember Beastly Kingdom, the land that was supposed to be where Camp Minnie-Mickey is now when Animal Kingdom was going to be opened? Yeah, well, it's now going to be Middle Earth from the Hobbit. There will not be one major ride, but TWO E TICKET attractions! Let me explain. But be warned, there are MAJOR spoilers about!

You enter Middle Earth through the Shire. It looks exactly as it did in the Lord of the Rings movies. Disney even got the set designers from the movies to give this land an air of elegant authenticity. The Shire will have a "Gandalf's Horse and Cart" ride. Riders get to travel through the Shire by horse and hay cart. At the helm will be an actor dressed as Gandalf who will regale the guests with songs and stories from Middle Earth. There will also be a walk-through attraction of the Baggins homestead; it'll be like Mickey's house but Middle Earth style.

Next up, is the Misty Mountains and the first of our three E-ticket rides. The first will be "Goblin Kingdom." Guests board boats through the murky caves of Middle Earth, encounter the party of dwarves that are accompanied by Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf as they are captured by the goblins and taken before the Goblin King. There will be some of the most incredible animatronics that Disney has ever created. We follow our heroes as they escape and Bilbo is separated from the group. We'll follow him down a waterfall as he ends up in the cave where he along with us will encounter Gollum. Again, Gollum will be a true masterpiece of animatronics. Andy Serkis was even enlisted to re-enact his performance as the voice of Gollum from the movies.

We are then taken out of the mountain and down an 85 foot drop out of the mountains, to see that Bilbo has effectively escaped from Gollum and now he, along with the dwarves and Gandalf are escaping the Goblins by climbing up trees and being rescued by an army of Eagles. Our journey ends as well. But wait, there's more.

The paths in Middle Earth will take us through the Mirkwood Forest maze, where a wrong turn will result in activating a giant animatronic spider which will hiss menacingly and notify you of the wrong path, or an army of wood Elves who are actors in costumes (pointy ears included) taunting you and possibly even guiding you out of the maze. The center of the maze will be the castle of the Elven King, another walkthrough attraction.

The centerpiece and the guaranteed ride that will have everyone talking is the "Lonely Mountain." This will be the highest point in Disney World next to "Expetition Everest." Both of these mountains will be visible throughout a great portion of the resort. The "Lonely Mountain" will be a high speed coaster that will involve a massive treasure room where you encounter the Dragon, Smaug. This Dragon will be the most incredible audio-animatronic creature ever created. Vekoma has already signed on to build the track for this showstopper of a ride. At one point, you actually speed towards the dragon's mouth and -- just as he begins to shoot fire at you -- you drop under him and spiral down towards the finale where...I can't bear to tell you. It's so incredible and so cool you'll just have to wait until it opens.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of Middle Earth. I hope it has excited you as much as it has for me. When completed, this will be the next best thing for those Tolkien Geeks out there to go to aside from going to New Zealand. This will guarantee that Animal Kingdom will become a full day park and not a half day park as it has become to be known as.

Oh, and by the way, Happy April Fool's Day.

(Editor's Note: Okay, so maybe we'll start Jim's new April Fools tradition next year.)

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