No big surprises as Disney announces theme park expansions at D23

September 12, 2009, 3:22 PM · Disney had made it official, with today's announcement at the D23 expo in Anaheim: Disney World's Fantasyland will get a major expansion for 2013, including its own copy of California Adventure's Little Mermaid dark ride, and a new 3D Star Tours movie will be coming to Disneyland and Hollywood Studios in 2011.

New Fantasyland at WDW's MK

I know that at least one TPI reader on the scene is working on a report (I couldn't attend due to family commitments.) But I chatted with Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel about the plans, which he detailed.

Basically, the plans wipe out everything to the east of the carousel and to the north of the Pooh ride in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, all the way over to the Tea Cups. That includes Mickey's Toontown Fair. The Barnstormer survives, to be relocated, along with Dumbo, to the far east-side of Fantasyland (the side close to Tomorrowland). In the middle, in addition to the Ariel ride, we get a Belle-themed restaurant and walk-through attractions for Aurora and Cinderella.

Ultimately, these new developments most help Disney, not as a response to Harry Potter and Universal, but as additional attractions that, along with Harry Potter, can lure more tourists back to Orlando. With the home equity "funny money" that financed so many Central Florida vacations over the past decade no longer available, the area's theme parks need to deliver more value to entice families to book a trip.

The downside to such announcements, though, is that they can persuade visitors to postpone their trips, waiting for the big new attractions to debut (and trying avoid construction hassles). I've heard from many sources who have stayed away from Universal this summer for that reason. I worry that today's announcement might further depress attendance at Disney in 2010-12 as these attractions go into construction.

More free meal plans, anyone? ;-)

Update: Another part of the MK Fantasyland plan moves Dumbo to the eastern edge of the area, adding a second carousel in an effort to cut down the kiddie ride's notoriously long wait-times. Kudos to James Rao in the comments for dubbing this new version "Dueling Dumbos."

I am inspired to add a poll:

Replies (57)

September 12, 2009 at 4:22 PM · If the expansion of Fantasyland is anything CLOSE to the artists's concept .... WOW!


September 12, 2009 at 4:46 PM · The Fantasyland expansion will be BIGGER THAN POTTER.
September 12, 2009 at 5:19 PM · A lot of people really aren't to happy that this is all that's coming, but I'm actually really excited for it. Even if it's mostly just Meet and Greets, Fantasyland still is getting an E-Ticket dark ride and the are looks like it will be beautiful. Star Tours II will be interesting in 3-D and I'm just excited to know that something is confirmed to be on the horizon. Now they just need to announce something for AK at next years Expo that will be there for 2012 and I will be very happy.
September 12, 2009 at 5:21 PM · TH, I'd think your serious when you say that the Artist's rendering looks great, because I agree as well, but this certainly doesn't blow Potter away. The Potter attraction will be much much much bigger than Little Mermaid, which is a very big attraction in itself. I don't think it'll be bigger than Potter, but it's nothing to sniff at.
September 12, 2009 at 5:32 PM · One thing I talked to Jason about, which didn't make it into his piece, is that there's little for boys here. Potter appeals to both genders and a wide age range. Disney princesses do not.

Star Tours will help, but ultimately Disney really needs to get Marvel into the parks to provide some boy appeal to balance the princesses.

Disney can try to bring the villains into the princess zones, but boys won't care. There's a "cootie zone" around girl-stuff like the princesses, and no pre-teen boy is going to want to cross that barrier unless they've been assured that the villain really will wipe out the princess. Which, at Disney, we know will never happen.

Again, though, the Potter vs. Princesses thing doesn't matter. The big question is whether Potter and Princesses can lure more visitors back to Central Florida.

September 12, 2009 at 5:47 PM · This is very exiting!

I was getting worried for Disney. Because of Universal's additions..(rockit, transformers and harry potter)

September 12, 2009 at 5:54 PM · Dan M, what you don't take into account is the size of the WDW audience -- which is more than TWICE the audience of IOA. Potter boasts a single dark ride and a retro-fitted coaster with a flashy queue. The concept (albeit blue sky) drawing of Fantasyland is not simply one ride and area development. It's a complete expansion/enhancement of a themed area that ALREADY kicks Universal's ass all over the map. Potter lands in 2010. In 2013 (when the new Fantasyland drops) Potter will be "been there done that" among theme park patrons.

More than Marvel, if WDW blows out Fantasyland to the extent shown in the artwork, (in 2013) Potter is an also ran.

September 12, 2009 at 6:12 PM · The real (fan boy) question is how it interfaces with the train tracks.
September 12, 2009 at 6:15 PM · TH, after some further thought, I'm inclined to agree with you in some regards. But I don't think this will have as much of an effect on the Magic Kingdom or its attendance as Harry Potter will have at IOA. Harry Potter is taking a cultural phenomenon and completely exploiting, and in the process hopefully creating something as incredible as it has been hyped to be. I am willing to stand by my statement that the Robocoaster will be a bigger and better attraction than the Little Mermaid, since it's a whole new breed of Dark Ride and TLM is just an incredibly themed 40 year old ride system. I also see where your coming from with your comments about the artwork and the MK's audience. I think, if executed as shown in the Skyview artwork that's shown, the expansion will be a beautiful land, that you can appreciate without even having to experience any of the Meet-and-Greets. Also, one of Disney's main targets, family's with young girls will go wild for this, every bit as much as people will go wild for Potter next year. But I still think that IOA will be if not equally, then more impacted by Potter, than the MK will by the FL expansion. The only reason I feel this way, is that the Potter expansion is bringing IOA to the attention of Millions who only went to WDW on their Orlando trips, or who wouldn't think of going to Orlando at all. I can see Disney really effectively advertising Fantasyland more so than I can see them capitalizing on any other new additions. So maybe your right TH, I really don't know, but I just think that Potter is bigger.
September 12, 2009 at 6:34 PM · Dan M, thanks so much for your thoughtful response.

Well done, sir.

And while your points are well taken, I made note of this particular phrase.

Your wrote: "Harry Potter is ... a cultural phenomenon."

To which I would respond: The Magic Kngdom at Walt Disney World is a MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH BIGGER cultural phenomenon. If the artist's rendering is actualized by WDI, Potter is a one-ride (albeit a one VERY COOL ride) pony. A one-ride pony that will (if they meet their construction schedule) be two years old when Disney opens the new WDWFL.

And also there is something to be said about a theme park that is nurturing (blowing up) their own creative concept verses another that simply pays a licensing fee to slap someone else's idea into their show.

If Disney commits to what is show on the artwork, Fantasyland will blow Potter off the map. PERIOD!

September 12, 2009 at 6:42 PM · The REAL question is "How much of this blue-sky artwork is BS? The train tracks, the tunnel entrance, the perimeter road around the Magic Kingdom. How does this configure?

Make no mistake, if they actually build this concept to the extent of the artwork shown, it will be an ASTOUNDING EXPANSION of the world's greatest theme park.

But it will be interesting to find out how all those puzzle pieces fit together.

September 12, 2009 at 7:04 PM · While I wouldn't agree with your statement that the Magic Kingdom is the World's greatest theme park, I do see where your coming from and agree with many of your points as well as you question as to how much is Blue Sky. However, there is one thing that I would like to make note of that hasn't been included in this expansion plan, but that has been talked about by WDI for two decades and has space allocated for it in this particular expansion plan. A Beauty and the Beast dark ride. Now I think that what he have now will make Fantasyland the most beautifully themed land in the Magic Kingdom, if not all of Disney World, and the Little Mermaid is a much needed Dark Ride for the Magic Kingdom. But a Beauty and the Beast dark ride, especially if it could use an innovative ride system, would make the new Fantasyland truly spectacular. This expansion will be great for the Resort and especially the Magic Kingdom, the area will greatly appeal to frequent visitors, and all of the Princess advertising that comes with it could feasibly but the Magic Kingdom's 2013 attendance over 20,000,000 people. But a Beauty and the Beast ride in 2015-16 would truly make this all that you expect it to be Mr. Creative. I don't necessarily agree with your assessment about this in relation to Harry Potter, but it's quite well reasoned and I respect your opinion and enjoy this friendly debate.

I hope to god your right for several reasons, though. This is a Lasseter-backed project that if it succeeds as you feel it will will only continue to topple the control at WDI back into the creatives hands rather than the Suits. This and the DCA refurb will hopefully make them see how much more potential there is to be realized in these parks and the quality of the 100s of millions of dollars that they continue to invest. And for Disney to continue to beat Universal, even after Harry Potter, it will only continue to result in them making very ambitious plans, to draw people away from Disney. No one benefits from that better than us. The Theme Park wars will be taken to never before seen heights, in the next decade, as groups such as Universal Creative continue to put out Disney-quality attractions. And I say: Bring it On.

September 12, 2009 at 7:06 PM · Dan writes: While I wouldn't agree with your statement that the Magic Kingdom is the World's greatest theme park.

I Respond: Wanna talk about attendance, Dan?

September 12, 2009 at 7:21 PM · Ah well said well said. All I have to say, if we're going to let the free market judge creativity, then the Jonas Brothers really are pretty awesome.
September 12, 2009 at 7:27 PM · Disneyland is the world's greatest theme park. In my humble opinion. Also attendance does not make something great.

I have to admit I am disappointed with this expansion. Don't get me wrong - Fantasyland, at the MK, definitely needs a refurbishment. The existing fantasy fair theme has always been poor especially in comparison to the fairy tale village theming at DL. There is no way that this existing area kicks anything at Universal. As is, it is very average.

I am tired of the copying that Disney does. After seeing the great reimagining of the Haunted Mansion at HKDL, I can't get too worked up about a duplicate of a ride on the other coast. A duplicate, that some rumors claim, will be less than the one in DCA. Hopefully, that won't be the case. I would have preferred to see the Beauty and the Beast concept used instead.

The Beauty and the Beast restaurant does sound good, however.

The overabundance of Meet and Greets bothers me. I have bad images of Camp Minnie Mickey all over again. I understand the need for them especially with the removal of Toontown. Yet, 4-5 seems a tad excessive. More family themed attractions would have been preferred.

The proof of this pudding will be in the details. The concept art does look very nice. If WDI can make a place that is just great to stand in, then they will have done a lot to assuage my fears. I also hope there is still space for a major attraction in the future. A major expansion with one "new" ride is poor.

As far as Potter goes, the main Potter ride is conceptually superior to anything here. It is pushing the envelope. This is not. Also, any one of the Potter films was more successful than The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. They also appeal to a wider audience. So, to say that this will BLOW away Potter is simple opinion and not based on any facts. We will know when they are both open.

Overall, the change is needed but I am left underwhelmed.

September 12, 2009 at 7:43 PM · Raul writes: have to admit I am disappointed with this expansion.

I Respond: In 2013 you will be in the minority.

Raul writes: "Also attendance does not make something great."

I respond: Yeah, run that one by the stockholders of GE. And when the attendance of one theme park MORE THAN DOUBLES that of another ... your contention crumbles like pie crust.

Raul writes: Also, any one of the Potter films was more successful than The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.

I Respond: By what measurment, exactly? Patronage? Or to put it another way, "ATTENDANCE?"

Raul writes: I am tired of the copying that Disney does.

I Respond: And are you the demographic they are targeting? Hint: The correct answer is: "no."

Raul writes: The overabundance of Meet and Greets bothers me.

I Respond: And the hour and half wait times (as reported by my wife who plays a character at MK) for said meet and greets slap that assertion off the page.

Raul concludes: Overall, the change is needed but I am left underwhelmed.

I Respond: You are not the guy they care about, dude. I am sure you are also underwhelmed about the script writing on Hanna Montana.

September 12, 2009 at 8:11 PM · What makes the Fantasyland expansion so EXTRAORDINARY is not the individual attractions. It is the SCOPE. The waterfalls, the bridges, the area development. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is the greatest theme park on the planet. Its only rival is Disneyland. An expansion of this size and scope (whether it has one new attraction or not) is extraordinary. It's not just the addition of a coaster or dark ride. It's an expansion of a work-in-place.

And (again ... to Disney's credit) it employs the ideas of its own company. It's not just a licensing agreement.

Disney has painted its own picture (as its namesake did). That's what makes this fresh and exciting. It's Disney doing Disney at the Magic Kingdom. It's NOT Disney writing a check to J.K. Rowling.

If ORIGINAL music and ORIGINAL film and ORIGINAL painting are considered works of art why not regard the medium of theme parks in the same context?

September 12, 2009 at 8:10 PM · I'm leaning toward's TH's side. The concept art looks beautiful, as does the work for DCA and Hong Kong's expansions which makes me really excited for Imagineering's future. But Raul, there certainly is a great demand for Meet and Greets at the Magic Kingdom, as TH has noted. This accomplishes that while presenting them in a beautiful manner with what appear to be magnificent architectural and natural features, and what is sure to be a great attraction. It's a shame that there aren't more Dark rides in the expansion, since Dark ride's are able to be enjoyed by everyone. But the Meet and Greets look well designed and will really be a fantastic addition for young girls and their parents who really just want to see their children happy. The area looks beautifully themed, and even if I'm not as excited for its contents, I'll be there just to walk around and take in the atmosphere.
September 12, 2009 at 8:14 PM · Oh,and although I've never been their, many of the most passionate Disneyland fans who have gone there their whole lives agree that Disneysea is the greatest theme park on Earth. I've never been myself, but it seems as though it is the pinnacle of what WDI can do with a lot of creativity and a nearly unlimited budget.
September 12, 2009 at 8:14 PM · Dan M writes: "magnificent architectural and natural features"

I Respond: What a GLORIOUS use of language. You just made Walt smile!

September 12, 2009 at 8:19 PM · Dan M writes: "The area looks beautifully themed, and even if I'm not as excited for its contents, I'll be there just to walk around and take in the atmosphere."

I Respond: BRAVO, Sir! BRAVO!

September 12, 2009 at 8:20 PM · South Carolina losing in a heartbreaker to Georgia really brought me down. Then, I log into TPI and see the official announcement about the Fantasyland expansion (and Star Tours II!!). Suddenly I am happy again... and starting to budget for that 2013 Orlando trip already.

I look forward to taking one last look at the tired old Fantasyland next year in May or September, then another three year hiatus will kick in (Ohio in 2011, maybe, Disneyland in 2012, for sure, then WDW in 2013). I am very excited for this change, and it will be great to get the Magic Kingdom moving forward again. It was becoming a bit of a museum.

Maybe Disney will next announce the Beastly Kingdom at DAK for the boys? One can only hope.

Great news. Thanks for cheering me up, Disney!

September 12, 2009 at 8:28 PM · Rao Rites: "It (WDW Magic Kingdom) was becoming a bit of a museum."


September 12, 2009 at 8:34 PM · Thank you very much TH, I feel very much the same way you do about the expansion, I simply haven't built up the anticipation to think this will be better than Harry Potter, and I really don't know how the general public will receive each, but I'm sure they'll both be shining additions to their respective parks. There's something to be said about a land that you can just walk around in and let the atmosphere soak in. Could it be better, yes. But I'm not going to get disappointed in what we get simply because it could be better. If you judge everything by its maximum potential, then your going to be let down A LOT in your life.
September 12, 2009 at 8:47 PM · Oh and here's the actual announcement at the expo with a lot of concept art and descriptions for anyone who hasn't seen it.

September 12, 2009 at 8:50 PM · Dan writes: "I simply haven't built up the anticipation to think this will be better than Harry Potter."

I Respond: Please define the word "better."

September 12, 2009 at 8:54 PM · Better as in which I enjoy more, not as in how much it will affect the parks.
September 12, 2009 at 8:56 PM · What strikes me most about the artist's rendition is its disregard for both the train tracks and the tunnel entrance.
September 12, 2009 at 10:04 PM · This sounds silly that Disney is playing into the princess fad once again. Why on earth would you get rid of a land?
September 12, 2009 at 11:23 PM · I gotta say that hearing this news made me send an email to my mother in law to make the WDW Family Reunion she just started talking about to be in 2014 or later.
September 13, 2009 at 4:35 AM · I'm excited for the new FL expansion as well. If Disney runs another 'Salute to the Military' promotion next year, they'll get attendance from me! (This despite a 7-month deployment to Afghanistan.). :)
September 13, 2009 at 7:00 AM · If someone said you're going to get an E-Ticket dark ride, a new full service restaurant, and a refurbed and revamped Dueling Dumbo surrounded by an interactive playarea (instead of a line) added to Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, wouldn't you be excited?

And don't worry about the Mickey greeting area, rumors suggest those characters will be moving to Main Street, USA, which is a great idea, IMHO. Gives visitors a reason to visit Main Street beyond parades, shops, and sweets.

Plus rumors abound that when the new Pixie Hollow area is fully detailed it will also include a new ride attraction.

So potentially two new "rides", dueling Dumbos, a restaurant, and a series of meet-n-greets that will take character interaction to a whole new level. Not a bad group of additions to a land that has been stagnant since Philharmagic was added in 2003.

Furthermore, the renderings make the place look just beautiful.

I don't see any downside to the changes described, other than the fact that we have to wait almost four years for the complete upgrade.

Sure I would have liked to hear something about a new Fantasyland indoor/outdoor launched coaster with a 500ft drop, 17 inversions, and audio animatronics that feature actual movement instead of strobe light simulation (Y-E-T-I). But let's be realistic... Maybe next year?

September 13, 2009 at 7:02 AM · I'm giving Rao a standing ovation just for coining the phrase "Dueling Dumbos."
September 13, 2009 at 7:25 AM · There are a TON of GREAT D23 clips on You Tube. Johnny Depp, Robin Williams, Miley Cyrus, Tim Burton, Jerry Bruckheimer, Robert Zemekis, Nicholas Cage.


September 13, 2009 at 8:10 AM · Let me be the first to say I hate this idea. Sorry! The only part I like is The Little Mermaid E Ticket ride.
September 13, 2009 at 9:49 AM · TH, with almost half the post on this thread, I was just wondering, do you have a sideline job of a PR man for Disney? lol And to think that Zachary and I weren't planning to come back down for 2 or 3 years. Looks like I planned that one right. And James, guess what movie Zachary had to watch last night on his sleepover, POTC:Black Pearl, guess Johnny has some fans outside of Missouri.
September 13, 2009 at 12:13 PM · I had to add a poll in honor of Dueling Dumbos. Vote above. (Hey, Universal's not going to be using those names anymore....)

And in answer to Bob's question, I don't think it is any huge secret to say that TH is "married to the Mouse." ;-)

September 13, 2009 at 1:00 PM · I can't take credit for "Dueling Dumbos" - been reading that name all over the web. Wish I could, tho.
September 13, 2009 at 4:20 PM · Nice one Mr. Niles. She liked that.
September 14, 2009 at 5:15 AM · Just to let you know, the second dueling Dumbo will not be new. It will be the Magic Carpet one in Adventureland put in with the other Dumbo and redone with Dumbo cars.
September 14, 2009 at 8:04 AM · While I'm excited about this news I was hoping to hear about a few more family rides especially in the other parks. While the MK is by far my favorite park I do agree with the pp about it starting to become a "museum" so I definitely welcome the expansion.

However, I still think DHS is 2 or 3 solid family attractions away from being worth the visit and AK could use another couple of family attractions as well. So for me while the expansion should be nice if the same money could have been spent to give me say TLM ride and then another 2 immersive family rides at DHS and AK each then I would have preferred that. Plus it would have spread the crowds out to multiple parks while making my family want to visit the other parks as well.

All this does is make us want to visit the MK more and for our next trip instead of visiting 3 parks (MK, Epcot, AK) maybe we'll only visit 2 (MK and Epcot).

September 14, 2009 at 10:56 AM · Preparing myself for a beat down from TH on this, but I have a disposible income, no kids,
I'm local and this really doesn't excite me other than that Universal may step up the game, again, and do something bigger and better than HP, but I can't see it happening for another 10 years.

Being male without kids, the expansion at Disney won't do a thing for me. The concept art looks great, and I'm excited for all the 2-13 yr old girls who'll enjoy it, but I'm sure I'm not alone in not being that fussed.

Disney, expansion for 2-13 yr old girls.
IOA, expansion for 2-60 yr old girls & boys!

September 14, 2009 at 1:53 PM · Gareth writes: "Being male without kids, the expansion at Disney won't do a thing for me."

I Respond: Being male with teenagers who will be 20 and 19 years old when this thing opens doesn't do a whole lot for me either. But I am a Central Floridian, who recognizes the importance tourism has on our economy. I work in commercial construction and I recognize the importance this project will have to my industry. Further, the concepts presented in the video shown on You Tube are amazing. And while I don't fit the princess' target audience, I am still very interested to see what a Lasseter led WDI does with what will be the most ambitious expansion to the greatest theme park on the planet since it opened in 1971.

September 14, 2009 at 3:48 PM · Asside from being very girl oriented, the land looks sweet. However i did have high hopes for the snow white coaster. Im a little let down by the beauty and the beast restaurant thing, i was hopin for a ride. Ill be looking forward to eating at the place neways. And only walk thrus for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Oh well. What im most psyched about is the new star tours!!! WOOT
September 14, 2009 at 3:50 PM · sorry double post
September 14, 2009 at 4:17 PM · "The Snow White coaster?"
September 14, 2009 at 4:35 PM · I hope you are right, Nick. I hate that eyesore Aladdin ride, plus its removal from Adventureland could be the first step towards the oft rumored expansion of the Pirates theming in Adventureland. TH may not want to hear it, but a Pirates retheme would be a nice contrast to the Princess expansion in Fantasyland.

Don't worry, TH, I am sure your beloved Jungle Cruise will survive, but Swiss Family Treehouse and the Tiki Room will not.

Say it with me: "Arrrrrrrr!"

September 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM · TH, a new Snow White & Seven Dwarves indoor mine train coaster was rumored to be part of the Fantasyland expansion - apparently it did not make the cut.
September 14, 2009 at 4:47 PM · Is it confirmed that Aladin is moving?
September 14, 2009 at 4:56 PM · James R., the Scrambler threw me out of the lurker's loft for just a minute. I really don't understand the competition between WDW and Universal Florida parks as far as which new park area is "better". Is there only so much fun allowed in Orlando? Can't visitors go to IoA AND Magic Kingdom? Comparing any two parks anywhere is almost as impossible as giving factual reasons why wooden coasters are better than steel, or visa versa. My next visit to Orlando will involve a few days at Universal with a day trip to Magic Kingdom (after everything is finished in Harry Potter and Fantasyland).
September 14, 2009 at 5:31 PM · ARRRRG I like the pirates overlay of adventureland. Buccaneer Cruise yet another Johnny Depp aa. Theres one climbing the pole and Trader Jack the shrunken head dealer lol. and The Swashbuckling tiki room.
September 14, 2009 at 5:42 PM · Last I heard, James K, the scrambler was down for repairs. And the maintenance crews still have not arrived in the Loft to clean the place up. Eewwwwwww!

As for your comment, I agree completely. A trip to Orlando without a visit to both Disney and Universal is like eating peanut butter without jelly, or vice versa. Throw in SeaWorld for good measure (consider it the bread for your pb&j sandwich), and you have a trip worthy of the 18 hour drive and $5000 expense.

September 14, 2009 at 5:59 PM · Again, is it confirmed that Aladin is moving?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

September 14, 2009 at 7:22 PM · What is this Aladin I keep reading about? Does it have anything to do with Aladdin? ;)
September 14, 2009 at 7:46 PM · I spelled something right...for once.

And no, TH, nothing is confirmed, in fact, Imagineer Eric Jacobson stated at the D23 Expo that Aladdin WILL remain in Adventureland, and NOT be converted to the second Dumbo spinner as rumored.

But then, Disney has denied many rumors before and they turned out to be true.

And, GADS, why would the park need FOUR midway spinners anyway? Ugh!

September 15, 2009 at 5:16 AM · If they want to change Adventureland they should upgrade the Jungle Cruise (keep the skippers and the jokes) andf bring back the original Tiki Room.

Otherwise they should leave it as is.

September 17, 2009 at 8:14 AM · Animal rights group in Florida urges Disney not to sugarcoat the truth about circuses in "re-imagined" Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride:

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