Pictured here left-to-right are “Once Upon a Time” star Ginnifer Goodwin, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs, singer Jordin Sparks and Mickey Mouse pose December 6, 2012 at the grand opening of New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
New Fantasyland is a new area in the Magic Kingdom and is the largest expansion in the 41-year history of the theme park.
Photo by Kent Phillips, courtesy Walt Disney World Resort
We first reported that Walt Disney World was seeking circus acts for its Storybook Circus portion of the New Fantasyland Expansion a few months ago. At the time, it was noted that solo clown acts were not being sought out, which many misconstrued as meaning clowns were not going to be an element in the Magic Kingdom’s expansion, which officially opens this Thursday, December 6.
Yesterday, the official Disney Parks blog shattered those hopes by announcing that the area will feature a clown act, known as the Storybook Circus Giggle Gang. While the Disney community at large reacted poorly to the news, the sentiment was only bolstered by the Disney Parks blog itself. Receiving relatively few comments, initially nearly half of the moderated comments were negative; at press time, the number has dwindled to nearly one-fourth.
Aside from a general distaste for the choice of entertainment, there is the very real and recognized irrational fear of clowns by millions of children and adults, known as coulrophobia. While specific fears are not broken down, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 14% of 18-59 year olds suffer from irrational fears. While spiders, flying and some others tend to top the list, many respected sources within the psychological field cite coulrophobia as being high on the list. This, of course, speaks for adults, but clearly children must be more open and accepting of clowns due to their child-like behavior, right? Not so.
One oft-cited example as to the extreme of how universally despised clowns are by children is a survey conducted by the University of Sheffield in 2007. The survey interviewed more than 250 children regarding proposed changes to a hospital’s decor. While not intending to single out clowns specifically (the survey consisted of all sorts of possibilities), the researchers couldn’t help but notice that every single one of the children, aged 4 – 16, rejected the use of clowns, with many children cited as referring to the clowns as scary.
Few professions can likely stake claim that they terrify their customers by their very nature of being — dentistry perhaps? Yet it is openly acknowledged and discussed by and amongst professional clowns that there is a large number of the population that — for lack of a better word — fears them. In an article from Psychology Today, titled ‘No Laughing Matter,’ one professional clown is quoted as explaining, ‘to a toddler, there’s nothing funny about a clown — he’s a monster.’
The professional discourtesy does not end there. The website of one professional entertainer, MollieTheClown.com, devotes an entire paragraph to understanding the fear of clowns by both adults and children and how she is willing to adapt to the stituation. And when it comes to the grand-daddy of clown infestations, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, clown-fearing is well known by the profession. In an interview titled ‘5 Clown Questions Debunked From a Ringling Bros. Pro,’ professional clown Frances Tiffin is quoted as saying, ‘You know, we’re all quick on our feet, so we tend to get used to it. But it never came up as a serious thing to think about. Not in a class, but definitely at work. I mean we talk about it all the time. Maybe clown schools should think about adding one. After all, so many of us do have some form of coulrophobia.’ After noting that as a female, she seems to be more approachable to children, she added, ‘I’ve heard a number of guys say that it’s frustrating that kids will shy away from them.’
For most people that fear clowns, there is one simple solution: avoiding them. Nobody who doesn’t like the circus makes a big stink out of it (other than PETA, that is), they simply don’t patronize them. Unfortunately when it comes to the most visited theme park in the world, the choice isn’t as clear. Nor is the Magic Kingdom even remotely near synonymous with clowns in general.
Most articles that attempt to explain why the fear of clowns is so prominent (as seen in Psychology Today, Scientific American, Time, et al.) present a sane argument that children don’t react well to something anthropomorphic, or something that seems like it should be part of their norm, but clearly isn’t. After all, haven’t we all been behind that screaming, tantrum-throwing child that refuses to go near Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World, belonging to the screaming, tantrum-throwing parent that insists they will pose for the photo to make for nice memories? So goes with clowns. As for adults, therapists argue that clown makeup acts as a mask and there is an inherent distrust of someone wearing a mask — that and the obligatory reference to horror films.
But perhaps it is time that Walt Disney World embraces clowns, after all, Universal Studios Orlando has had them for years — as part of its Halloween Horror Nights. Perhaps this is just the second half of the Disney Parks 2013 initiative: ‘Limited Time Magic, Unlimited Terror.’
With just under a week before the official grand opening of the New Fantasyland expansion the Magic Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Resort has shared some interesting facts and statistics about the expansion as well as Fantasyland at Disneyland theme parks around the globe.
- Doubles the size of Fantasyland. Originally 10 acres; today’s Fantasyland with expansion: 21 acres.
- Largest expansion in the 41-year history of the Magic Kingdom.
- Between Walt Disney Imagineers and their partners, it took more than 140 disciplines to bring New Fantasyland to life.
- Future additions to New Fantasyland include Princess Fairytale Hall (2013) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (2014).
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will feature five-car trains that are designed to sway independently as they swing around the track.
- There are over 12,000 “books” in the library at Enchanted Tales with Belle.
- There are 115 windows in the Beast’s Castle.
- The lion-like figures flanking the door at the entrance to Be Our Guest Restaurant were referred to as “golions” by the design team, a combination of goat and lion.
- Figures above the entrance doors, eagles with snake tails, are called “sneagles.”
- The six stone figures on the bridge leading to Be Our Guest Restaurant were all given the name “Frank” during the design phase simply as a way to identify them.
- Centerpiece chandelier at Be Our Guest Restaurant measures more than 12 feet tall and 11 feet wide. It boasts more than 84 candles and more than 100 jewels that hang down to give it added shine.
- At Be Our Guest Restaurant, the delicate Rose Gallery adorned with rose accents, paintings and tapestries, is centered by a music box nearly 7 feet tall with a twirling Belle and the Beast.
- Storybook Circus has set up in Carolwood Park – this name references the steam train that was in Walt Disney’s backyard.
- At the Magic Kingdom Park, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and at the Disneyland Resort, Timothy Mouse carries a magic feather atop the Dumbo attraction. At Tokyo Disneyland, he holds a circus whip.
- A version of the popular attraction “Dumbo” has been included in every Disneyland-style park since the first one in 1955:
- Magic Kingdom, WDW, October 1, 1971
- Tokyo Disneyland, April 15, 1983
- Disneyland Paris, April 12, 1992
- Hong Kong Disneyland, September 12, 2005
- The music heard from the old fashioned calliope in the front of Pete’s Silly Sideshow was recorded from a set of antique circus crank organs owned by a collector in Southern California.
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow resembles a type of sideshow called a Ten-in-One, which traditionally offered a series of acts performing various tricks and daredevil stunts.
- Pete, sometimes known as Peg-Leg Pete, is the longest running continuous Disney character, debuting in 1925 in the Disney short, Alice Solves a Puzzle.
- There are 183 characters in Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. More than 70 percent (128, to be exact) are featured in the “Under the Sea” scene.
- The Audio-Animatronics figure of the sea witch Ursula is 7 1/2-feet tall and 12 feet wide.
If the grand mural in the load-in area were turned on its side, it would reach a depth of more than 14 fathoms.
- More than 20,000 live and artificial plants decorate the attraction, inside and out.
A new post on the official Disney Parks blog teases what appears to be the Flying Dragon puppet/vehicle that was spotted during testing earlier this year at Minter Field Airport in Shafter, California. Using blurry video footage, the video appears to spotlight the vehicle and in fact the post does tease that it involves a dragon of some sort, noting some of which even breathe fire, which the Disney flying vehicle reportedly does.
The blog entry also links to a new tumblr account which chronicles these so-called dragon sightings (not really), but perhaps what’s most interesting about the tumblr’s posts is that they are tagged with New Fantasyland, indicating that the flying dragon puppet/vehicle may soon be making its public debut over the skies of the Enchanted Forest in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Walt Disney World has just released this image of the Rose Gallery located inside the ‘Be Our Guest’ restaurant located in the Enchanted Forest section of the New Fantasyland Expansion at the Magic Kingdom.
Featuring a large music box centerpiece nearly 7 feet tall with Belle and the Beast slowly twirling atop, the Rose Gallery is one of three dining rooms at Be Our Guest Restaurant. Adorned with rose accents, paintings and tapestries, the Rose Gallery features French-inspired cuisine for quick-service lunch. Part of New Fantasyland, Be Our Guest Restaurant will grand open December 6, 2012.
Photo by David Roark, courtesy Walt Disney World
‘New Fantasyland’ Preview for D23, Annual Passholders Announced; Limited Edition Merchandise Pre-Order
Disney D23, the official club for fans of The Walt Disney Company, has announced it will be offering its members the opportunity to obtain free tickets to be among the first to preview the Fantasy Forest area of the ‘New Fantasyland’ expansion at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on the weekend of November 3-4, 2012.
On October 8 at 1 pm ET, timed tickets for either day will become available for members to register for themselves and one guest. The timed blocks are 3 1/2 hours each, available at both 8 – 11:30 am and 5:00 – 8:30 pm and will include a choice of either a meet and greet with Ariel in her new Grotto or the opportunity to play and greet with Belle in the new ‘Enchanted Tales with Belle’ attraction. Other areas will be available to explore at members’ leisure, including limited dining opportunities, but ‘Be Our Guest’ will not be serving at this time.
A ‘New Fantasyland Commemorative Collection’ consisting of a small number of merchandise created for the event has also been announced and is now available for pre-order throughout most of October. This merchandise must be ordered online in advance and will not be available for purchase at the event or anywhere else beyond this opportunity.
To see the full collection of available merchandise, click here. For more information for this opportunity for D23 members and to claim tickets when available, see the official event page. Registered Annual Passholders are advised to look for an email announcing the opportunity to register.
A new entertainment opportunity has been announced for the Magic Kingdom theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Under the title of ‘variety acts,’ the position is specifically looking for ‘fun and engaging circus-style variety acts, preferably those with levels and height, as well as audience participation.’ In addition, ‘these acts must be self contained, allow for quick set-up and strike, not use any permanent rigging, and be suitable for outdoor venues. They must also be suitable for family audiences.’ Solo clown acts are explicitly not being considered at this time.
Although the entry doesn’t explicitly say where the acts will perform, presumably the acts will be part of the ‘streetmosphere’ at the Storybook Circus section of the New Fantasyland expansion, which is currently open and operating, though the official New Fantasyland launch date will be December 6, 2012. Auditions are by appointment only and must be requested via phone at 407-397-3285.
Walt Disney World also recently announced it was seeking talent with physical comedy and improv skills for two new, ‘highly interactive, comedic and unique atmospheric experiences’ that ‘will bring fun and fantasy to each Guest’ for the Magic Kingdom.
Via an email to Disney Travel Agents regarding the newly made announcements regarding the Enchanted Forest portion of the New Fantasyland Expansion at the Walt Disney World Resort on December 6, 2012 (soft opening November 19), a few pieces of concept art were released. They appear to be new, but it is quite possible they’ve been released previously and we just missed them, but even if they are old news they are beautiful enough to warrant sharing again.
- The castle of the Beast stands majestically upon a hill and houses the Be Our Guest Restaurant (reservations open for November 19 on August 20 at
12 pm7 AM ET), which will feature a lavish dining experience in the elegant ballroom, gallery and mysterious ‘West Wing’ of the castle. With seating for 550, this eatery promises a French bistro flavor, offering ‘great food fast’ service by day and full table service dining in the evening.
- Maurice’s Cottage (decorated with a few of his wacky contraptions!) is situated in Belle’s Village amongst a French countryside setting complete with a wishing well and rustic foot bridge. The inventor’s humble workshop welcomes guests into the first scene of Enchanted Tales with Belle and Lumiere, a lively retelling of the ‘tale as old as time.’
- Nearby in Belle’s Village, guests will find the rousing Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts.
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid is a major new attraction that takes guests on a ride with Ariel and her friends through their exciting adventures above and below the waves – all against a musical backdrop of songs from the classic film.
- Ariel’s Grotto provides a way to meet and greet with The Little Mermaid herself.
Some unfortunate news comes way of the official Walt Disney World Resort website today as it notes that the re-opening of Dumbo has been postponed from its original re-opening date of February 18 until
March 12 March 31, 2012. The news is unexpected as construction has wasted no time in dismantling the attraction from its current location behind Cinderella Castle to its new location at the Storybook Circus area of the New Fantasyland Expansion, in the area formerly occupied by Mickey’s Toontown Fair.
When the attraction re-opens, it will come face to face with a nearly identical Dumbo attraction, although the new version of Dumbo will be the first Dumbo attraction to spin in the opposite direction, creating the ‘Dueling Dumbos’ effect. That ride is already at least in the final Testing and Adjusting phase by Walt Disney Imagineering. When the area opens, Dumbo is expected to finally feature water like its foreign siblings and domestic distant cousins. The current Dumbo system was originally built for Disneyland Paris and able to include water as a feature, but the location above the Utilidors made that impossible.
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It appears that Walt Disney Imagineering has begun the test and adjust phase for the brand new Dumbo attraction being installed in the Storybook Circus area of the New Fantasyland Expansion at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Photos and video captured by MouseSteps demonstrate some of the vehicles in action yesterday.
What makes this particular installation of the classic attraction is that this will be the first time in any Disney theme park that Dumbo will fly in a clockwise direction (i.e., if you were to look at the attraction from an aerial vantage point), or more simply put, Dumbo faces left. In every other installation, Dumbo flies in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction. The attraction topper is also more ornate than previous incarnations, replacing Timothy Mouse with a bevy of storks mid-job.
The existing Dumbo attraction is expected to close on January 9 and be relocated to its new space, next to the new Dumbo attraction, offering guests a ‘Dueling Dumbo’ effect when the attraction is expected to re-open on
February 18, 2012 for Presidents’ Day Weekend March 12, 2012.
Effectively doubling the theoretical hourly ride capacity (THRC), Dumbo is also expected to offer another Disney first: no traditional queue. Instead of guests lining up for what is notoriously one of the longest and slowest queues in the parks, a circus tent area will offer entertainment for guests as they wait for their respective boarding group to be announced, as was previously tested at Rock’n'Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
For more photos from the Dumbo testing in the Magic Kingdom New Fantasyland Expansion, visit MouseSteps.