Friday, November 30, 2012

New Fantasyland at The Magic Kingdom

Wednesday night John and I went out to Disney for some serious picture-taking. I mean, we brought a tripod and everything. ;)

The new Fantasyland area has been open - albeit unofficially - for several weeks now, off and on, and I wanted to get some shots of the new Little Mermaid building and the Be Our Guest restaurant - not to mention Cinderella's castle with all its icy Christmas lights. (SO. PRETTY.)

With my aversion to trams it took us a while to walk in to the TTC - of *course* they parked us at the farthest possible lot - but I did Ok on the ferry. So long as it's not too crowded or hectic, the ferry is open enough that I don't feel penned in.  

(And thanks again to those of you who pointed out I can walk in to the park from the Contemporary - we've done so just once so far, but it's a relief knowing I have a back-up plan if my anxiety flares up in the future!)

Finally - FINALLY - we were in my favorite park, and we had about two hours of daylight left to wander and snap pics sans tripod.

It was gray and overcast, but hey, any day at Disney...

 The Emporium has their animated Christmas Carol windows up:

And the Candy Shop displays never disappoint:
 (I think those springy bits are made with fuzzy pipe cleaners. Possible DIY project? Eh?)

I intended to make a beeline straight for Fantasyland, but the Dapper Dans were out, so cue the Jen fangirl squealing:


Oh, and I realized why I love the Dans so much yesterday, too (you know, besides the awesome music) - their puns!! They rattled off a ton of holiday-themed puns that had everyone groaning, and at least one girl whooping with glee.

"What do you call a wreath made of hundred dollar bills?"
"A wreath a' Franklins!"

Also, their rendition of Christmas in Kilarney is gorgeous. Be sure to request it if you see them before January.

I spent forever looking for the best rose for this shot. Have I mentioned John has the patience of a saint?

Moving on, we finally made it to new Fantasyland. We were there too late in the day to see the restaurant, sadly (lunch ends at 2:30, and you can't go inside during dinner hours unless you have a reservation), but I took some pics outside and on the bridge:

Further along we discovered Gaston out posing for pictures. We ended up stopping to watch for a few minutes, because it turns out Gaston is freaking HILARIOUS. 

Gaston doesn't stand - he leans. He flirted shamelessly with all the women, kissing their hands and telling them how lucky they were to meet him. Then he'd whip into a bunch of rapid-fire Zoolander poses that had everyone rolling. Next time I'll get some video, because you guys really have to see him in action.

John didn't know that the Little Mermaid ride was already open and running, so he was pretty excited when we made it over to the jaw-dropping ride exterior:

The wait was only 40 minutes, so even though I doubted my anxiety would let me ride, we went in to photograph the queue.

See the "E" in the window? Must be Eric's room.

Once you round the corner, you're treated to this stunning view:
John took this one. Don't you love the soft look of the waterfalls? 

Then you weave through that rock work:

Until you end up inside the caves:

Inside the caves it's quite dark - a lot of these details you couldn't see in real life - and with the crowds it felt a little cramped further in. There were so many fun things to look at, though, along with interactive virtual crabs, if you can believe it, spaced throughout the queue:

The crabs are projections, so you can only see the white outline of the little guy in the glass here. They would busily stack items in piles, and you're supposed to point at the item if it doesn't belong, which will make the crab discard it. 

There are a few skylights open to the outside, which makes for some dramatic lighting and shadows.

The next room was the most uncomfortable for me, since it has no view of the outside and is more densely packed with people:

In here the only distraction is an animatronic Scuttle the seagull, who you can see as a bright white blur in the middle. Fortunately this part of the line moved pretty fast, though, and we zipped through the room in about five minutes. (Although not before I mentioned to John that *maybe* they shouldn't have hung those two ball lights in a pair - and made one of them blue. John said I've been writing Cake Wrecks too long. Very true.)

Once you leave that room there's a nifty transition area where you leave the caves behind and enter the castle itself:

We passed this beautiful section of queue not in use:

Just another few steps, and you're in the loading area.

(Sorry for the terrible pics; it's really dark in there!)

There's a lovely mural on the back wall featuring Ariel and Eric's ship, and the ride cars are the same clam shells used on the Finding Nemo ride:

After the last room of the queue I was feeling a little jittery, so when I noticed that the ride kept stopping (I think to load wheelchairs, but I'm not sure) I told John I'd just meet him outside. He rode through and recorded the whole thing on his phone for me, though:

There's nothing too groundbreaking here, but the animatronics are fantastic. Look at Ariel's arm movements around 2:20 - plus she blinks and moves her mouth! It's so natural looking, I almost didn't notice. And I love the rowboat scene. Probably because that's John's and my favorite song from the movie. We like to sing it together, with John doing a great Sebastion impression & me filling in the "Ya YAH Yaaaa!!"s. :D

By the time we emerged it was dark out, so then the real photography fun began. We broke out the tripod and got to work:

I'm dabbling with HDR photos, as some of you can probably tell from this one. It's a struggle for me, and I really have no idea what I'm doing, so I just play with the settings in PhotoMatrix until I like the look.

To give you some base of reference, here's a traditional, non-HDR shot:

And this is what the building actually looked like:

Now here's an HDR shot of it:
Pretty psychedelic, right?

I'm on the fence with this HDR thing, since I can't seem to make my shots look good - or at least look good to me. There's so much gorgeous HDR stuff out there, though, that I know I'm just not doing it right. I'll keep trying!

Well, I've been working on this post & pics for over 6 hours now, so I'm going to end here and put the rest of our night shots in a later post. I hope you've all enjoyed your virtual tour so far!


  1. Kind of like totally jealous of your photography skillz. And that you can go to Magic Kingdom pretty much whenever you want. Cheers!

  2. Your queue for "Little Mermaid" is WAY cooler than ours here in California. Here the ride is in California Adventure, so I guess they designed it to fit that aesthetic, rather than the look of Fantasyland. Plus, there's never a long wait, so you don't need the entertainment while you stand there.

    Fun fact from a friend who works in the park--Ursula has a red bustier printed on her vinyl body under the velvet dress!

    "Beauty and the Beast" is my very favorite ever (I even worked on a professional production of the musical!), and I'm SO excited about the new restaurant and the castle. I hope you get more pictures soon, it would make my day! (Seriously, just the shots on the parks blog make me weepy)

    I'm heading there tomorrow for all the holiday stuff! Can't wait!

  3. I squeed like a little girl when I saw the movie of the Little Mermaid ride. That was my favorite movie growing up... I had Little Mermaid EVERYTHING!

    Your photos look beautiful! I think the HDR(?) ones look fine but I don't have the photography eye to tell if it's wrong lol

  4. SQUEE! The Little Mermaid! That was my favorite movie as a kid... I had Little Mermaid EVERYTHING! Dolls, bedsheets, plates, costumes... you get the idea :)

    The photos look great by the way!

  5. Thank you so much for the pictures of the new Fantasyland! I'm going to Walt Disney World for the 5th anniversary Princess half marathon in February and those pictures make me so excited to see it in person!

  6. Thanks for sharing the ride with us! I hate to put this mental image in your head, but those arm movements at 2:20+ had me thinking "wax on, wax off." SORRY! LOL :)

    HDR is cool... the effects are awesome, but no clue what it's all about. First I've heard of it really. Off to google it...

  7. I went on The Little Mermaid ride with some friends for the first time at Disneyland two weeks ago. I watched all of John's video and can say definitively that they are identical (once you're on the ride, not the queue). Did anyone else think that they cut out a huge chunk of the story and Ursula is not exactly defeated in the ride? She appears in the background of the final scene. Just didn't seem to flow properly to us like the rest of the ride does. Made us laugh though. :)

  8. With the HDR, you're not doing anything wrong persay, but you're messing up the whitebalance, lol. If you notice how yellow it's getting. I think you fixed that, it'd help. Do you use Lightroom at all? Cause you can sorta work HDR in that and be able to mess with SO many settings. Besides that, I love the pictures. You're really good at framing and getting great shots. I need to shoot more, but we never go anywhere. I'm a total homebody, lol.

  9. @ Katherine - Urg, I know! But as you can tell from my non-hdr shots, everything goes crazy yellow in low lighting with my camera, so the over-exposed shot was practically solid orange. Ha! I tried to color correct as much as I could, but that's still what I ended up with. We forgot to set the ISO lower, though, so next time I'll give that a shot - see if it helps. :/

  10. I guess it's time to start saving for another DW trip!!

    Side note: do mermaids really need to blink? Just a thought.


  11. We saw the Dapper Dans when we were there in August. Really enjoyed listening to them. I wonder how many Dapper Dans there are, we saw them twice, and they were different each time (and different than your picture above).

    One of the things that made me say that when we go back to WDW, I'm going to get an autograph book, and have a lot of the background people sign.

  12. My cousin is moving down to Florida next month and I was thinking of helping by driving her stuff down there, and this post just decided it for me. I want to go on that ride so bad!!!

  13. Jen, I'm more of a lurk-and-never-comment type person, but I have to tell you that judging from this post, I think we may be long-lost twins. Sisters, anyway. MK is also my favorite park and I too am a Dapper Dan's fangirl. (Much to the hubby's chagrin.) I just wanted to tell you that when you see Beast's Castle restaurant you will probably fall over. I cried. I got to see it on a cast member preview (I live in Orlando, hubby is the cast member) and it is simply divine. I have pictures of it but I'm not sure how to share. Forgive my rambling, first time commenter, long time reader, blah blah. :) The point of all this is: I'm a big fan of yours and of everything you do and if you want a restaurant sneak peek through photographs, I got your back.

  14. I hope the Little Mermaid is open when we go to the Christmas Party Sunday! I haven't been to Disney in a long time. I miss it! This will be my first Christmas Party too.

  15. My husband is a photography fanatic as well. He looked at the castle HDR and non HDR and says in your photo editor that all you would need to do is tone down the orange. Also, some of the HDR software will let you choose a color scheme that you load on the camera and then take an HDR photo. I have no clue what all of this means. Give me film and a darkroom any day. I quit when digital took over. He says don't give up it still looks good!

  16. Jen, you're making me jealous with the fact you're in close proximity to Magic Kingdom! Tell John thank you for taking the video of Little Mermaid ride - that's one of my favorite movies.

  17. Lovely photographs! As somebody who lives nowhere near Florida (or California, or Paris, etc), by the time I get to New Fantasyland it'll probably be known as Old Fantasyland. Getting to live vicariously through you is much more fun than reading about the rides on Wikipedia.

    Speaking of which, are you aware of the dragon of New Fantasyland? There's an ARG (which is cheesy but kind of interesting) that they're building up around it, which can be found here.

    However, if you want to know what's actually going on, I'll simply leave this patent here. WARNING: MAGIC-REDUCING (but seriously kind of awesome) SPOILERS AHEAD:

    Click here.

  18. Sweet pics! I can't wait to check out the new fantasy land. :)

  19. Hi Jen,

    I have a point and shoot camera, so I don't even know what HDR means, but it makes for some really, really pretty pictures. Love the Disney posts!


  20. Wow, great pictures! We were at the Magic Kingdom this summer and your photos (and Jon's video) already make us want to head back there. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Thanks for taking me on the Little Mermaid ride with you.
    And, of course, now I have to put a meeting with Gaston on my list of "not to miss" for my next Disney trip.:-)

  22. In response to the orange/white balance thing. Do you shoot in Raw? or Jpg? I've found that if you shoot in Raw and convert in Photoshop/Lightroom then it's much easier to fix yellowish photos. Plus, Lightroom has an HDR plugin that, as was mentioned, really lets you go wild with the settings. Hope that helps. :)

  23. Have been reading your blog for quite a while, but this is the first time I've posted. Just wanted to say that I will be there in 2 weeks and I can't wait! Your post made me all the more excited! Can't wait to see all the new stuff. I'm going to MK to celebrate my 45th birthday.
    Thanks for all the great pictures!

  24. The Enchanted Forest section of the New Fantasyland has it's grand opening on my birthday! And Beauty and the Beast is my favorite movie. I need to go back to Disney, ASAP!

  25. The thought of you and John singing that song together fills me with so much silly happiness! Love you guys!

  26. This may be a silly question, but is the new Little Mermaid ride repurposed from 20,000 leagues under the sea? Or is that something else?
    Last time I was in Florida I went to Universal to see Harry Potter world and didn't make time for Disney, since I'm happy being a pottergeek by myself, but I always like company at Disney.

  27. Hi Jen,
    Just was on 'Super Punch' and they have 2 vids of Gaston!!

    Love that guy! wish i could go and see him 'live' here in Europe we only have Disney in France :(

  28. Jen, I am a giant Disney Parks fan and read every one of your Disney Parks posts in detail. I know motion sickness is nothing compared to anxiety but a few years ago I developed pretty intense motion sickness. I can control it as long as I keep my eyes closed (because motion sickness = what you see not matching up with what your inner ear feels) so plane rides, bus rides, etc. are just more boring than they used to be, but manageable.

    BUT the actual worst part of developing motion sickness was realizing that some of my favourite Disney rides don't agree with me anymore. I live in Canada but my whole life I've always visited Disneyland or World every 3 years or so and on my last visit, having to sit out of the new Star Tours was a sad moment for me (it was also my first visit to Universal Orlando and riding the Harry Potter ride was absolute torture). I get what it's like to have to give up some Disney rides - I've expressed how sad I am about it to some friends who thought it was funny that I was so upset about it. I know the motion sickness has gotten a bit worse since the last time I went so I'm kind of worried about what else I won't be able to handle anymore next time I go. Hopefully not Indiana Jones!

  29. Aweseome Pictures! Thank you for sharing. My husband says you guys should get into 3D photography and then we can feel like we are actually there.

  30. @ SusanR - The ride is built on the same grounds that Leagues used to be on, but that's it; nothing was repurposed that I know of. I heard the Imagineers left an homage to the Nautilus somewhere inside, tho! I'll have to look it up again, since I've forgotten where exactly.

    @ Loek - Thanks! I'm off to watch 'em now!

    @ Robyn - Ug, yes, I feel your pain! It's frustrating when something that's supposed to be enjoyable becomes a battle against your own body. I desperately want to go on Pirates again to see the new mermaid additions, but my last ride-through was so uncomfortable that I'm afraid to. I know other people think it's silly, but your fellow Dizgeeks understand!

  31. Thank you so, so much for posting pictures of New Fantasyland! (Particularly of The Little Mermaid ride, I identified.... one redhead to another!) When I was there for the Halloween Party not too long ago, I didn't get to grab any pictures, being equipped with just my cell phone, so I'm loving some real photos!

    :D Can't wait to see the rest. And all the holiday crafty updates.

    Back to watching Firefly gag reel....

  32. Have you come across this woman on Etsy? She makes a lot of the less popular Disney costumes and has a Flickr account with great photos, too. Also, if you haven't seen this, you should. :)

  33. How funny, my husband and I were there on Tuesday (in Orlando for a conference, took a few extra days for the parks). We started in New Fantasyland - Did you make it to Storytime with Belle? the Wardrobe and Lumiere were so realistic, it was amazing, and the castle lighting was my favorite part of the day :?)

  34. Fantastic pictures! You're making me want to get back to WDW as soon as humanly possible.

    I don't know how many shots you're taking for your HDR photos, but if you're only taking 3 (underexposed/normal/overexposed), try upping it to 5, 7, 9, whatever your camera can handle taking and your computer can handle compiling. You might have to discard shots totally, but you'll get a larger range to choose from.

  35. I was very upset that they took out Scuttle singing in the "Kiss the Girl" scene. I thought it was the best part of the song. :(

  36. Love your pics! Need to get back to WDW soon... It has been way too long. We were in Orlando a year ago for a few days, but only got to Universal for Harry Potter. It was so strange for me to be there and not go to at least Magic Kingdom!
    Keep going with your HDR. It is hard to do well, but can be so worth it! I'm not very good at it, have only had one or two real successes, but they're enough to make me keep trying!

  37. I've poked around New Fantasyland several times, but I have yet to go through Little Mermaid. I want to, but I'm always toting around a three year old who knows that Dumbo is RIGHT THERE and MAMA WE HAVE TO RIDE ELEPHANTS NOW NOW NOW. This past weekend was my first time seeing Gaston out and about, and yes, he is absolutely hilarious. My husband went into the tavern to grab me a drink and Gaston just walked right up to me, took a look at my 'Happy Anniversary' button, and said, "So I still have a chance. Helloooo there." The Beauty and the Beast fangirl in me really wanted to go all JUST TAKE ME NOW.

    Oh, and I just wanted to say that I *totally* feel you on the anxiety stuff there. I've had several small freakouts at Disney, but I never had a problem on the ferry until the Halloween party. We stupidly left when everyone else did, and we were all forced onto the ferry. I was pretty much immobilized before we could even get on the stupid thing. Both times we've gone since, I can't even ride the ferry. Just thinking about it makes me hyperventilate.

  38. Your HDR shots are nice. I'd like to see the darks a little darker, but you're getting really nice effects in the color. :) But it's been about three years since I played with HDR so don't ask me how to do that!!

  39. "Gaston doesn't stand - he leans."

    Did you just make a While You Were Sleeping reference?

  40. Though not quite as fantastic, have you gone over to Fort Wilderness and seen the decorated campers? A good way to see them is to take the 45 minute hay ride wagon tour. Also, the Gaylord Palms resort is outlined in lights, and of course they have ICE and the inside is decorated. Some other nice decorations are inside and outside of Rosen Shingle Creek hotel.

  41. *Q music* "Noooooo ooooone shoots like Gaston, Makes those beauts like Gaston, Then goes tromping around wearing boots like Gaston!"....and now the song is stuckin my head!

  42. John is one cool guy. My husband and I finally went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I told myself I was going to go on the main ride (I can't recall the name right now) because we freakin' love HP. 2 minutes into it, I had to close my eyes and cover them with my hands because of my anxiety. We waited a long time to go there and I couldn't handle it. The rest of it was amazing though! I can't wait to see this!

  43. I never knew of anyoen that knew the song Christmas in Kilarney other than my mother and I! Non one ever knows it. She sang that back when the church we used to go to did a Madrigal dinner (which we made the costumes for. This was back before we fully converted to Jedism of course. Next time I go to Disney it should be at Christmas and I have to have them sing it.

  44. Hi! Love all the pics and description of the new Fantasyland. Someday... I'll get back to Disney World to see it in person.

    For the HDR thing... I have never tried it, but one of my all time favorite photographers is Trey Ratcliff. He works almost exclusively with HDR and has some really great tutorials and such. Stuck In Customs HDR Tutorial


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