ORLANDO, Fla. — New Fantasyland adds some spangle-sparkle to the stately Magic Kingdom.
With the help of a flying pachyderm, a book-reading do-gooder and an aquatic sylph wishing for feet, New Fantasyland lets visitors immerse themselves in the stories of true love and happy endings.
It officially opened in early December, when many parents came with little girls in pastel princess dresses. People waited nearly an hour and a half to get into Enchanted Tales with Belle. Small children rode in clamshells down into the deep of the Little Mermaid Under the Sea.
The most popular theme park in the world, the Magic Kingdom had 17 million visitors last year. Disney World is clearly aiming for more.
Here are answers to some questions children asked me before I visited. I promised the answers, so here they are:
Q: Can you go into the Beast’s Castle?
Yes and no. The castle is somewhat of an optical illusion, appearing to be distant and atop a very high rock cliff. However, you do enter into the cliffside to find yourself in the famous ballroom and other rooms that look exactly like the film “Beauty and the Beast.”
There, you can eat lunch or dinner in the huge 550-person Be Our Guest restaurant. (Don’t miss the side room that holds a magical rose that hovers under glass.) The French-inspired food is very good.
Q: Are there real mermaids swimming at the Little Mermaid ride?
No. But the ride takes you in a clamshell car down onto a pretend ocean floor, where you are met by singing throngs of fish, shellfish and coral. Children can meet Ariel after the ride.
Q: Does Fantasyland still have the carousel and the teacup rides?
Q: Is New Fantasyland a copy of the Harry Potter village at Universal Orlando?
No. Both were on the drawing board at the same time. Fantasyland is more princess-y and looks more like a French village. No wizards here. However, Fantasyland has introduced a special nonalcoholic LeFou’s Brew (apple-mango-marshmallow drink) in the park’s Gaston’s Tavern; it’s similar to Universal’s Harry Potter Butter Beer.
Q: What is the Little Mermaid castle like?
It’s actually called Prince Eric’s Castle, and it holds the Under the Sea ride. It has small stone towers but is nowhere near as big as Cinderella Castle, which still dominates the park.
Q: Is there a ride featuring Belle?
No. Instead, you go inside the pretty Maurice’s Cottage, pass through two rooms and step through a magic mirror to get to Enchanted Tales with Belle. It lets guests be part of the story as the tale is recounted of how she and the Beast fell in love.
The talking Madame Wardrobe and Lumiere steal the show.
Q: Is the Dumbo ride still in Fantasyland?
Yes. In fact, now there are two Dumbo the Flying Elephant rides – with a second Dumbo ride spinning the opposite direction next to the first. They are centerpieces of a pastel, dreamy new section of Fantasyland, Storybook Circus, which also includes the Barnstormer family coaster featuring the Great Goofini.
Q: Do all the New Fantasyland rides have Fastpass?
No, only Dumbo, Under the Sea and the Barnstormer. Dumbo also has a new pager system that will hold your place in line while you play in the Big Top area next to the line. Fastpass is a way to get a timed ticket so your wait is shorter. Fastpass would help at these other new attractions; I saw a 70-minute wait for Enchanted Tales with Belle – a long time for young children to stand in line.
Q: Where is New Fantasyland?
When you pass through the Cinderella Castle, it’s off to the right. One odd sight is that the attractions are spread around the outer rim of a fenced-off area. That’s where the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family coaster is being constructed; it will open in 2014, featuring cars that swing back and forth. Also nearby is the now-closed Snow White’s Scary Adventures. It will make room for the Princess Fairytale Hall in 2013, giving children a chance to meet Disney princesses amid more spangle-sparkle.