Impressions of the New Fantasyland Dress Rehearsal

Editor: My friend, Lisa Battista, author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers recently was at Walt Disney World, and had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the new Fantasyland expansion. Today she shares Part One of her experiences. Be sure to check back on Monday for Part Two.

Friday was going as planned. It was my family’s last day in the theme parks and we spent the morning at Epcot before returning for a relaxing afternoon of packing, baths for the kids, and my preschooler’s nap – or so we thought. I logged onto Facebook and everything changed in an instant.  The New Fantasyland was soft opening! Baths could wait and packing could be done in the wee hours. My mom and I hopped a bus with my first-grader to the Magic Kingdom while my husband stayed back with my sleeping son.

Sure enough, a sign at the castle wall proclaimed that the New Fantasyland was in dress rehearsal. We were able to experience Enchanted Tales with Belle, Under the Seas – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Grotto, have LeFou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern, and even met Gaston himself.

Let’s talk overall impressions.

  • Theming and detail. The New Fantasyland is visually stunning and immersive. The atmospheric setting exceeds any other area of the Walt Disney World theme parks and I believe it is the area’s strong point.  Beast’s castle is perched in the snowy mountains high above the quaint French village while grass grows on the rocky seaside cliffs that surround Prince Eric’s castle.

The New Fantasyland, including Storybook Circus, gives a fresh spin to the meet and greet and queue experience and puts a new, fancy face on old favorites but isn’t particularly advanced from a technology perspective. Don’t get me wrong, the attractions are very good but by themselves, they don’t awe. (There is one exception and that is the magic portal from Maurice’s Cottage to Beast’s castle in Enchanted Tales with Belle. It was amazing.) The totality of the area, however, is awesome.

  • It’s about the princesses. At least that’s what my newly minted seven-year old proclaimed and I have to agree. Although the area doesn’t outright scream princess let’s face it, the stars of the area are Ariel and Belle, two Disney princesses. Gaston in the town square was secondary; antlers and a dartboard adorning the walls of Gaston Tavern isn’t going to make a seven-year old feel that he isn’t going to see a princess when he waits on line for Enchanted Tales with Belle. That being said, I do believe the young prince in your group will enjoy the Fantasyland Forest even if it’s not the highlight of his trip. Mine did.

The Fantasyland Forest area of the New Fantasyland will be well-received by guests for its solid attractions and exceptional theming. Now Disney fans just have to wait for a mine train for the Fantasyland Forest to be complete.

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Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.

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