Theme Park Ranger
9:21 AM EDT, May 2, 2013
There are plenty of projects in the works at Walt Disney World, but here are progress reports on four incoming attractions. Disney gave updates on them last week during a preview for members of the media.
The middle of New Fantasyland remains a construction zone for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. Its indoor-outdoor track and swaying ride vehicles will add buzz to an area surrounded by proper princess-driven attractions.
"I think it's definitely going to add a dynamic, a lot of kinetic energy, which will be fun," says new Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis. The mine train will double as attraction and spectator sport, much like the very visible drop of Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
"I think of it as theater in the round," says Mark Kohl, director of project management for the Fantasyland expansion. "Our guests will be able to walk 360 degrees around the coaster when it's complete and experience it from all angles."
Or maybe it's a triple whammy. The attraction slows down indoors, morphing into a dark ride.
"We're going to take you inside this magical cave where millions of diamonds and gems are going to shine, and seven of our closest friends are all going to be hard at work in there," Kohl says. It later shifts back to coaster mode.
Mine Train is set to open next spring.
The next element of New Fantasyland to open will be Princess Fairytale Hall, a central gathering place for Disney royalty in the shadow of Cinderella Castle.
"This is where all the royal subjects of Fantasyland, our guests, can go and meet them in sort of a royal receiving room," says Jason Grandt of Walt Disney Imagineering. Look for Cinderella, Rapunzel and other princesses to rotate through there.
The space, formerly home of Snow White's Scary Adventures ride, has been overhauled.
"If there's a clue that Snow White [ride] used to be the building, it will be a well-placed homage by us," Grandt says.
The attraction will be ready by the end of 2013, "in plenty of time for the holidays," Kalogridis says.
California Grill, the restaurant topping Disney's Contemporary Hotel, is midway through its first refreshening in 19 years. The establishment is a hot spot for anniversaries, birthdays and marriage proposals, says Michael Scheifler, food and beverage manager.
"Seating capacity stayed the same, but we changed quite a few of our tables to many more two-tops to accommodate the demand for those special occasions," Scheifler says.
The look will be midcentury modern with tones found in a sunset, such as hot pink and amber. New energy-efficient windows are being installed. Guests will be greeted by a "wall of wine," he says.
California Grill is expected to reopen in late August or early September, he says.
Coming soon — within weeks — is Wilderness Explorers, an interactive experience being incorporated into Disney's Animal Kingdom.
It has 30 "locations where kids and families can pay a little closer attention to the things that they see, dig deeper into the educational side of it, earn badges that sort of elevate their stature as Wilderness Explorers over time," Imagineer Alex Wright says.
One stop, for example, will be along the park's Maharajah Tiger Trek.
"There's going to be a station where you can walk up and, through a little field viewer that we've got set up, you can experience how a predator like a tiger sees their prey in the wild," Wright says.
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