The beauty of the newest bit of the Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom is the blending of old and new. Although the official opening of the updated Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride isn't until next month, some Disney World guests have previewed the attraction during its "soft opening" phase.
What they've seen: side-by-side carousels of the traditional Dumbo ride, separated by 50 feet or so, with colorful new water and lighting features and connected by an indoor (translation: air-conditioned) queue that doubles as a playground.
After a few outings to Storybook Circus — the Fantasyland area that is Dumbo's new home — and a walkthrough with creative director Chris Beatty, I was beginning to feel like a Dumbo smarty pants. Want to know way too much about Dumbo? Keep reading.
•If facing the entrance to the Dumbo ride, the carousel on the left is brand-new, created especially for the Fantasyland expansion. It circles in a clockwise fashion, which makes it the only round-and-round sort of Disney ride in the world that does not go counterclockwise.
The carousel on the right is the refurbished one that stood in Dumbo's old Fantasyland home, near Cinderella Castle. It was moved from there in January and remodeled to be a fraternal twin to the new model. It looks the same but moves counterclockwise, of course.
•Atop the attraction's arched entry is old friend Timothy Q. Mouse, the title character's little buddy in the 1941 film "Dumbo." The archway figure itself has a historic connection to the theme park. It was atop the "old" Dumbo ride.
"We cleaned him up and moved him over," Beatty says. "He's such a neat ambassador."
Timothy, armed with the magic feather seen in the film, rotates atop the sign, and he bows toward each half of the attraction. The back of the sign reads "Believe & Soar!" (I'd like that on a T-shirt or official Disney Pin, come to think of it.)
•The Dumbo color scheme has been altered — it's a shade richer — and the flying elephant cars have new paint touches, including ears and feet that are now pink underneath.
I recently rewatched the "Dumbo" film, where there's inconsistency about ear color. Sometimes they're gray, sometimes kind of brown, sometimes pinkish. But the pink really works in the park, making it pop among all the gray, especially when looking up at the animal's underbelly.
•Inside the queue area is a circus-themed playground with slides and other playthings. Folks will be issued a pager there marked "1 ticket to the amazing Dumbo." It's similar to beepers used in restaurants. "There's no learning curve with it," Beatty says. The pager lights up when it's time to board the ride.
•High in the play tent queue is a flying Dumbo and Timothy Q. The area includes a tall burning-building set as seen in the film — the climactic scene where the title character discovered he could fly. Pull a cord near the fireworks display to set off a light show with strobes. Benches line the outer edge, providing rest for rattled parents until the pager goes off, which is expected to be 15 or 20 minutes.
•A center ring, designed for 2- to 3-year-olds, has interactive elements such as a little fire truck with horn, tap-touch lights and various cranks. Step on animal prints to create noises.
•FastPass holders will not experience the indoor stretch of the queue. (The play tent is designed to be optional. If the lines aren't very long, Disney may not use it at times, Beatty says.)
•More bits of the area will be revealed throughout the summer, Beatty says, including an archway greeting people to Storybook Circus. Fantasyland attractions based on "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid" are expected to be ready by the holiday season of this year.
•This project has improved the Dumbo attraction by "leaps and bounds," Beatty says. Hard to argue that. Let's see, the capacity of a hugely popular kids ride is doubled, the queue is made prettier and more humane, and it leads the way of the biggest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. Fly high and proud, Dumbo.
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•An opening date of 2013 is, indeed, correct for Princess Fairytale Hall, which will take up residence in the former home of Snow White's Scary Adventures. The space is being made extremely "regal," creative director Chris Beatty says. Look for lush woodwork and full-size portraits of the princesses inside.
•Construction is progressing for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster, which has a 2014 completion date. The highest steel beams now seen represent the top of the ride — almost. Imagine it to be about 12 feet taller once decor and other building materials are layered on, Beatty says.
•Landscaping is under way behind the construction walls. Most of the trees for Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid "are in now," Beatty says.