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Firmer Fantasyland dates, more details released

By Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel

April 27, 2012

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Walt Disney World revealed a more specific timeline for Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion and other details about upcoming attractions at its "What's New, What's Next" session for members of the media on Friday.

The next stage of Fantasyland to open will be in July. That will include the opening of both sides of the doubled-up Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, as well as its interactive queue, and the Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station. These are in the Storybook Circus area of the park, where one of the Dumbo carousels and the Barnstormer roller coaster have been operating since last month.

A larger segment is set to open by the holiday season of 2012, said Meg Crofton, Walt Disney World president. That phase will include the Be Our Guest restaurant (set in Beast's castle), Gaston's Tavern (reminder: no alcohol), the cottage for Enchanted Tales with Belle, Ariel's Grotto and Under the Sea -- Journey of the Little Mermaid, a dark ride already operating at Disney's California Adventure theme park.

The Seven Dwarf Mine Train roller coaster will open in 2014, Crofton said.

That ride "really will be the centerpiece of the expansion when we're finished," said Chris Beatty, senior creative director of the expansion.

Beatty shared a photo and details of a chandelier set for Be Our Guest restaurant. The largest of three measures 11 feet wide by 12 feet tall. They are "almost exact replicas" from the "Beauty and the Beast" animated film, he said.

Other details and details from the Disney World session on Friday:

-- "The Magic, the Memories and You," the castle-projection show that debuted last year, will add new scenes and music on May 25. One will feature characters from "Phineas & Ferb" and a giant sand castle.

"It's the danciest overlay we've ever done. The castle itself will be dancing to the beat," said Alan Bruun, creative director.

Other scenes will feature jungle imagery with Simba, Timon and "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King" and a "Little Mermaid"-inspired "waterlogged aquatic finale, Bruun said.

-- Look for the Agent P World Showcase Adventure to debut at Epcot in late June, said Imagineer Jonathan Ackley. The interactive game will utilize the same pavilions as the outgoing Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure but feature new special effects in each land, Ackley said.

The storyline features the Flynn-Fletcher family from the Disney Channel series "Phineas & Ferb" going on an around-the-world trip, and they've packed Perry the Platypus (a.k.a. Agent P) in a cat carrier. Guests will be recruited to be secret agents that sometimes free Agent P and sometimes work with P, battling Dr. Doofenschmirtz in various Tri-State areas of Epcot countries.

-- Trevor Bryant, show producer for the re-imagined version of Epcot's Test Track, clarified some facts about the re-do, which is expected to open in fall.

"We are not changing the dynamics of the ride," Bryant said.

But the pre-show will be entirely different (the building has already been stripped of its previous test-dummy theming). Now each guest will be able to customize a vehicle -- cars and trucks -- and each model will be virtually tested for capability, efficiency, responsiveness and power. The results will be revealed onboard, but the ride itself will continue its fast pace and the indoor-outdoor element. It will not become a simulator, as some fans have wondered.

"We're not going to disappoint them," Bryant said.

-- Also sometime in fall, Splitsville, a bowling alley/entertainment center/restaurant will open at Downtown Disney in the old Virgin Mega Store space. It will feature 30 lanes 20 upstairs, 10 downstairs plus two sushi bars and five bars.

It will be double the size of a typical Splitsville, said co-owner Guy Revelle.

It will expand the second outdoor dining level from Virgin, and give that a roof.

-- An array of Disney merchandise was on display Friday. Coming May 10, just before Star Wars Weekends, will be a Droid Factory at Tattooine Traders at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's a build-your-own Astromech Droid activity resulting in 3-inch figures that fit into other playsets.

Look for mouse-ear hats geared to Perry the Platypus in late May and the recently revived Orange Bird in late June, said Steven Miller, merchandise communication manager.

In the fall, Disney will introduce MouskeEars, a collectible version of ear hats that fit into the palm of your hand. They are about 4 inches wide, and there should be about 20 designs in different colors and some parroting the most popular head-sized ear hats, Miller said.

And Vinylmation rolls on, with a version that represents the pink version of Cinderella Castle from Disney World's 25th anniversary celebration. It will be available this summer.

DBevil@Tribune.com or 407-420-5477