Attractions such as Peter Pan's Fantasy and Snow White's Scary Adventures typically have long lines of parents and toddlers awaiting for classic escapism. But it's those teeming masses (and their double-wide strollers) that have kept me clear of those rides for many months.
Last Friday, one day before the Fantasyland plans were made official at the D23 Expo in California, I made it my mission to revisit these areas. I was able to walk straight on to most of these attractions — and make a stop at Mickey's PhilharMagic — all before noon, which was made possible by going the week after Labor Day, when school is back in session most everywhere and park attendance is lighter.
(Note to parents of pre-schoolers: Why would you ever visit in the summer when September is a breeze? Most of the guests were wide-eyed with excitement: "There's no one here!" That's some real magic.)
I nabbed an unnecessary FastPass for Pan and headed for Snow. In each of these rides, I encountered forgotten pleasantries, but in the mine cars I was reminded of how dark the setting is. Black light is used in the close quarters, and I might have been startled when the queen, gazing into her mirror, does a startling turnabout into the witch.
There's more peril later, and I think my inner child might have freaked out. Fortunately, the dwarfs keep matters light, and there's a happy, Dopey ending.
Over at the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, I had to fight my own prejudice because the attraction replaced a favorite from my actual childhood, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was closed in 1998. The hunny-pot cars helped ease the pain through the storybook romp, and I certainly was tickled by the bouncing motion that accompanies Tigger's antics. The ending falls way short of the Toad's. Pooh, I say.
There was even time to cycle through it's a small world before returning to Neverland. When I asked for seating for one, the cast member said "Aww, do you need some extra pixie dust today?" That made me feel good, although I wondered if it was Disney-speak for "We're watching you, man traveling alone in Fantasyland."
So Pan is my new Fantasyland favorite. It's downright transportive: We're flying over London, y'all. The suspended rail guides the cars through several scenes, including one where it appears you could reach out and rescue Wendy, who's being forced to walk the plank.
I'm totally going to be Peter Pan for Halloween.
I checked the lines for Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Cinderella's Golden Carrousel and Mad Tea Party, but they all made me feel even more conspicuously not 8 years old. So I opted for the "adult" entertainment of the nearby Haunted Mansion.
A proven commodityThe plans for the Fantasyland of tomorrow are interesting. Disney is spending money — it won't say how much — but it's not that risky, really. The princesses are a proven commodity, and new consumers for it are born every minute.
And while we grown-ups might not believe in the Disney Fairies so much, note this: Last Friday when I walked straight onto most Fantasyland attractions, there was a 45-minute wait to interact with Tinker Bell and her Pixie Hollow posse.
Still, what's a boy to do in Fantasyland? Disney already is presenting the expansion as having broad appeal, but you don't usually find young males all hot for a Little Mermaid ride, right? Doubling capacity of Dumbo is a good plan, and making the queue more entertaining definitely is not dumb.
Truthfully, I'm more pumped about the 3-D refreshening of Star Tours over at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We all know it is showing its age, and we only have to wait a couple of years. See you in 2011.
Great big beautiful tomorrowCheck out new images of the upcoming Disney World expansion (plenty of princesses at Magic Kingdom, Star Tours update at Hollywood Studios) plus a gallery of the current Fantasyland attractions at OrlandoSentinel.com
• PAGING MR. MORROW: Tomorrowland Transit Authority is back on track at Magic Kingdom. Peek at Space Mountain from there at OrlandoSentinel.com/tpr
• FRIGHTS BOTH LIGHT AND WITH BITE: Check out updates on Halloween events from several Central Florida attractions at OrlandoSentinel.com/tpr
Dewayne Bevil can be reached at 407-420-5477 or email@example.com.
We see cosmos by the seashoreThe stars are aligning for Saturday's Cocktails & Cosmos at the Orlando Science Center. The monthly event will include the opening day of two features and plus a Polynesian theme.
Festivities kick off with a happy hour from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (After all, its first name is Cocktails.) Next are native dances by Lanakila, a Polynesian dance troupe with log drums and knife twirling.
Inside the Dr. Phillips Cinedome at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. will be screenings of Sharks, an examination of the great white, hammerhead and whale sharks. Gavin McKinney, the film's director of photograph, will introduce the work before each screening. He'll be available for questions and autographs afterwards.
Orlando photojournalist Miriam Lorenzi will be display a collect of images titled "Ocean Beauty."
And finally, making its debut that day is the A-Mazing Sea exhibit, a walk-through demonstration about the challenges that face sea turtles, sharks, octopuses and whales.
All activities are included in the $12 general admission.