Disney's Magic Kingdom has been steadily at work for close to a year now. Visitors in early 2011 could see the beginnings of what looked to be a major revamp.
At that time people were told the Toontown Fair area of the Magic Kingdom, which featured Mickey and Minnie's houses along with other classics, would soon be no more.
The Toontown Fair section of the park was closed in February 2011 and much of it was planned to be torn down to make room for the new Fantasyland expansion.
Fast forward to fall 2011 and Magic Kingdom visitors saw a huge colorful fence that lined both Tomorrowland and Fantasyland blocking off sections of the park. Onlookers could see glimpses of the makings of what was obvious to be some major renovation in progress.
Construction taking place at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Site of the new Fantasyland
The Orlando Sentinel reports that 'Storybook Circus' will be the first section of the new Fantasyland to open. This news was received from "Mickey's Monitor", a quarterly mailing distributed to Walt Disney World annual passholders.
Storybook Circus will be located where the now demolished Toontown Fair was located. This new section is reported to be based on Disney's 1941 "Dumbo" movie, and the current flying Dumbo ride is seemingly being moved to the new area. Additionally some former attractions from the Toontown Fair, such as Barnstormer, will be renamed and featured in Storybook Circus, although no word on whether or not Mickey or Minnie's houses will have a place in the new Fantasyland.
Inside of Mickey Mouse's house, which was located in Toontown.
Fantasyland is being described as being opened a bit at a time eventually leading up to a Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Beauty and the Beast themed features. With this expansion will come new rides, at least one restaurant and perhaps even a reading with Belle (a live show?) if the billboards attached to the colorful construction fences are any indicator.
Description hinting at what's to come in Disney's new Fantasyland - Beauty and the Beast attraction
In a live chat hosted by Disney Parks Blog which featured Walt Disney Imagineering was held on Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. This first-time every live event shared more information about the new Fantasyland. Chris Beatty, Creative Director with Walt Disney Imagineering, was the member of the Disney team who gave some additional low-down which included answering several questions submitted by attendees.
Beatty indicated Fantasyland is going to open in phases starting in the fall of 2012. In response to a question posed by an attendee regarding the biggest challenges in the new expansion, Beatty said, "The biggest challenge in creating New Fantasyland has been making sure we stay true to those classic Disney stories our guests love and cherish."
One of the prominent features seems to be the new Be Our Guest Restaurant. According to Beatty, this is his personal favorite of the project, and he says guests will have a feeling of stepping right into the film. This leaves much up to the imagination since the movie showcases a magical presence, right down to the dishes.
Apparently the experience of living the animated films in real time extends to the rest of the attractions as well.
When asked if visitors will "really feel" they've "magically transformed into the films" , Beatty said, "Absolutely. The Imagineers have done such a great job bringing these worlds and stories to life. Many of the details you see in the film, you'll see reflected in the expansion."
In response to a question about the family-friendliness of the new Dwarves Mine ride, Beatty replied that the ride will "definitely be a family coaster that everyone can enjoy together." This ride will encompass new technology which focuses on a swinging bucket "inspired by the film itself."
While some plans for the expanded Fantasyland has been revealed, there is still much to be unveiled as the blocked off area looks to be quite extensive. Beatty also spoke of a 'Fantasyland Forest', which gave attendees a hint that magical stories will be hidden within the forest.
Disney's blog has posted a full transcript of the chat.