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Disney World unveils its more boy-friendly plans for the Fantasyland expansion project

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Disney World unveils its more boy-friendly plans for the Fantasyland expansion project

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There's this story which dates back to the Fall of 1984. About how Michael Eisner - right after he'd been installed as the new head of Walt Disney Productions - brought his son, Breck along when Eisner did his very first walk-through of WED. And based on this then-14-year-old boy's enthusiastic reaction to a model that the Imagineers had built for a proposed attraction that - back then -- was called Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah River Run ... Well, that's why Splash Mountain was first built at Disneyland Park in the late 1980s and then went on to become one of the more popular attractions at Disney Parks worldwide.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I bring up that story now because ... Well, I genuinely have to wonder what role Tom Staggs' three young sons played in the revamping of Jay Rasulo's plans to radically expand Fantasyland at WDW's Magic Kingdom.

Jay Rasulo onstage in the Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center presenting
Fantasyland concept art. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

You may recall - back when the then-Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts officially confirmed that this project was in the works back in September of 2009 at the inaugural D23 EXPO - that this expansion of that theme park had lots of little girl appeal. With more than 2/3rds of the budget being set aside for rides, shows and attractions which celebrated the Disney Princess & the Disney Fairies franchises.

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But then came November of 2009. When - in a move that surprised many in the business community - Disney President & CEO Bob Iger announced  that Rasulo and Staggs would be swapping jobs at the Company. With Tom - who had previously been the Mouse House's Chief Financial Officer - replacing Jay as Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. While Rasulo then moved into Staggs' old office in the Michael Eisner building on the Disney lot in Burbank.

(L to R) Thomas Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts,
and Jay Rasulo, Chief Financial Officer of The Walt Disney Company.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And almost from the moment that Staggs came on board at Parks and Resorts, there were rumblings that Tom supposedly had some serious concerns about this $300 million expansion of the Magic Kingdom. That because so much of this project was focused on creating interactive experiences that would primarily appeal to young females ...

Concept art for the now-canceled Pixie Hollow portion of the Magic Kingdom's expansion
project. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... that Fantasyland's expansion was almost deliberately turning its back on an equally important demographic. Which was young boys.

As Staggs told Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel in an August 2010 interview:

"We took a hard look at it amongst a number of us and said, 'Can we make the appeal broader? Can we make it even better?' "

So that giant show building which used to occupy the very center on the Magic Kingdom's new fairy tale forest section ...

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... which was to have featured elaborate, hands-on meet-and-greet experiences with Briar Rose ...

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... and Cinderella?

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They're officially gone now. Replaced by a more family-inclusive attraction, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ...

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... which will occupy approximately the same footprint ...

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... as the old Cinderella / Sleeping Beauty show building.

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Now as for those highly detailed "play and greet" experiences that WDW Guests were supposed to have when they visited Briar Rose at the Woodcutter's cottage ...

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... or dropped in on Cinderella at Lady Tremaine's chateau ...

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... Sadly, those experiences are NOT going to be replicated inside of the Princess Fairytale Hall ...

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... Because ... Well, given that this recently announced addition to the Fantasyland expansion project will have to accommodate more Disney Princesses (among them the more recently crowned additions to this super-popular & profitable franchise, Tiana from "The Princess and The Frog" and Rapunzel from "Tangled"), the meet-and-greet areas that are to be carved out of Fantasyland's soon-to-be-closing "Snow White's Scary Adventures" ride have to be somewhat generic. So that they can then accommodate multiple Disney Princesses.

Which is kind of a shame. Given that some of the illusions that the Imagineers had created for the Briar Rose "play and greet" (where - as Guests worked on creating birthday cards for Princess Aurora -- the Good Fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather would have wielded their wands and created havoc inside of that woodcutter's cottage) ...

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.. and the Cinderella interactive experience (where WDW visitors would have actually witnessed with their very own eyes  that magical moment when the Fairy Godmother conjured up Cindy's beautiful blue ball gown) ...

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... were absolutely stunning.

Hopefully at tonight's media event at the Magic Kingdom, the PR folks for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts will be a little more forthcoming about what these revised plans mean for the "Storybook Circus" section of the Fantasyland expansion project.

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In particular, where Mickey's Toonfair Fair's massive Cornelius Coot's County Bounty retail operation as well as the planned retheming of the Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farms coaster fit into all this ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But after all these months of whispers and rumors about how the Tom Staggs version of WDW's Magic Kingdom expansion project would compare to Jay Rasulo's original vision, what do you folks think? Will this version - as Staggs hopes - now have far broader appeal to boys once construction is complete in 2013? Or is this $300 million project still too heavily skewed toward girls?

Your thoughts?

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  • That's a shame they're yanking out Snow White, not only does it honor the first animated feature but it's a better version than Disneyland's.  The changes coming to Fantasyland do sound pretty great though and much more gender-balanced.

  • THANK YOU TOM STAGGS!! I went to the D23 1st Anniversary event back in February and when I saw the first concept, I personally didn't like all the princess "stuff". Disney needs more boy-friendly attractions to keep them at Disney and not leaving for Universal.

  • Wait, are they still keeping the Beauty and the Beast ballroom/dining room experience? That to me was a highlight I'd love to go to Disney World to see.

    If there's one thing I think is a downer, it's the removal of the Cinderella interactive experience. Now that seemed like a great and magical thing to keep- one can just hear the awe in some kids at seeing that happen right before their eyes.

  • This is a lot better than the original proposal, but Disney needs to step up their game.

    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is looking better all the time.

  • Yawn, nothing exciting to see here.  Sure there are some new rides, but it looks like Disney has forgotten how to wow people.  It looks like Universal will continue to have success due to Disney's non-creativity.

  • My reaction was a bit mixed. I do love the inclusion of the new Seven Dwarfs coaster ... that's cool. But replacing Snow White's Scary Adventures with a meet and greet is a bit lame. Although in fairness, I guess they have to put it somewhere since it seems like the one at County Bounty will have to go to make way for the new circus theme. And chalk me up as one who's thrilled they're adding a second Dumbo. My kids ALWAYS want to ride Dumbo and the line is typically ridiculous. It will be nice to double the capacity there.

    I guess overall I expected a bit more from this announcement. Much like the last "BIG ANNOUNCEMENT" it left me a bit wanting. Everything they announced I've known about for months.

  • This is too little and will not stop the erosion of attendance that is going over to Universal.  Fantasyland needs a new big e-ticket attraction that can compare with Harry Potter.  The retheming of Toontown looks cheap and not up to the quality Disney has aspired to in the past.  WDW Toontown was built to be a temporary Mickey Mouse Party.  The tents have been up for over twenty years now.  Time to take them down an rebuild the whole area as Toontown like at DL.  You couple a great new E-ticket ride with a new done right Toontown then you can can start competing with Universal.  

    Disney needs to stop listening to the cost accountants and the finance people for creative decisions.  Build the parks first and adjust the finances latter.  That was how Disney did it to begin with.

  • To me this seems like a more balanced approach.  Yes, princesses are good, but little girls are only half of the little kid population that visits Disney.  I was very intersted in seeing the special effect of Cinderella's magically appearing gown (that sounded cool), but now I will look forward to seeing all the sprakling gems in the Seven Dwarfs coaster.

  • I like the seven dwarfs mine idea. That sounds like a lot of fun. Plus it is a lot more gender balanced.

    However, there still needs to be more if Disney is going to keep people on property. Maybe now's the time to dust off Marc Davis's western river ride concept?

  • The idea of the Dwarf Mine Coaster is a step in the right direction, particularly to replace the meet and greet.  Replacing the Snow White Adventure with the meet and greet isn't very creative.  How about restoring Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or coming up with a new Tangled Dark Ride.  The princesses meet and greet could be situated in the old skyway station.  

    What would be a real addition to Fantasyland would be a new Peter Pan Ride situated between and behind Gaston's and Ariel's new ride.  It would be like Soar'in but over London and Never-Never Land.  The audience would be lead on this flight by Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.  Universal rides, except for Harry Potter don't storytell like Disney does.  It's coasters and waterrides at Universal.  Disney needs to do what it does best - tell stories and use the mechanism of a ride to give its customers a overall richer experience.

  • What ever happened to rides like Splash Mountain?  Even though that movie wasn't very popular at the box office, it created a popular ride.  I still wish they would have put an attraction in Fantasyland themed to Atlantis or Treasure Planet.  Sure, these movies didn't do well at the box office, but that doesn't mean a theme park attraction wouldnt be a hit.  Stop counting the pennies, Disney and do something creative once again!

  • I think the changes are good...but I'm not sure that the Little Mermaid ride is really an E-ticket...it really looks identical to finding Nemo in Epcot. The mine ride looks good, interested to see how it comes out--hopefully it's not just a simple ride, but heavy on the Story Telling. In reality though the whole expansion seems like a lot to add for a park that is already the leader in attendance--people will never stop attending the MK, Disney really needed to expand Animal Kingdom--that Park really needs some more rides as does Epcot and studios

  • I'm not a huge Disney 'geek', so this is the first I had heard the news about Snow White's Scary Adventures closing...all one sentence of it.  Hard to give much of an opinion based on so little information here.  Maybe after the media event we'll have something to ponder.  For now, I'm off to find out more information.

  • I was never really a fan of Snow White's ride but it does sadden me that WDW is taking away almost all of the rides that I (and so many others) grew up with. The next time I return to WDW I fear I won't recognize the place.

  • The Dwarf Coaster and Ariel's Ride, while good additions, are not  "E" rides.  The Flight of Peter Pan to Neverland. using Soar'in technology, would be.  

    Epcot needs Russia and a new Horizons 2150 (using the empty Wonders of Life pavilion), possibly a Mount Fuji bobsled for Japan or the Haunted Tower of London Ride for Britain.

    Hollywood Studios could use the Monster Inc. Coaster or Toy Story Playland.  An Avengers "E" ride, using a new story line should be built near the Tower of Terror.  Naturally, it is more than a coaster, which is the Universal way.

    The Animal Kingdom suffered from Eisner budget cuts to important attractions.  Either a Journey to the Center of the Earth or a modified  Dragon's Castle, an "E" attraction, Mythic Maze (Quest for the Unicorn)  and Hero's Challenge, an attraction based upon Toy Story Mania technology but using Hercules, Pegasus and Phil as they fight the Titans & other Mythological Beasts, would fill out Beastie Kingdom.  Naturally, Festival of the Lion King needs to be put in Africa.   Now, you have a full day park.

    This calls for significant investment on the part of Disney, but Walt Disney Land in Florida is unique in what can be accomplished.  There is room for other gates in the future.  To the above, I would extend the Monorail from Epcot to Hollywood Studios to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  On the North end of the Epcot Monorail, I would extend it to include the Wilderness Lodge.

    My ideal plan would call for a 17-story Hotel called Terra Mater Tower within Epcot serviced by a unique technology called et3 or Evacuated Tube Transport Technology.       Check out this website.  It will blow you away.     thezeitgeistmovement.com/.../index.php

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